2020 State of New American Citizenship Report

(report care of Boundless)

Today Boundless released their new 2020 State of New American Citizenship Report. The key takeaways are below:

The coronavirus pandemic has left thousands of potential new American voters in limbo.

On March 18, 2020—due to COVID-19—USCIS stopped conducting in-person interviews and oath ceremonies for immigrants seeking to become naturalized citizens. These immigrants have already made it through most of the naturalization process after many months—sometimes years—of waiting. Nationwide, well over 100,000 naturalization applicants are already stuck in limbo, and with thousands more piling up month by month, these citizens-in-waiting will likely be unable to vote in the 2020 election.

The national trends were worrisome, even before the pandemic.

The processing time for a citizenship application has surged to 10 months—double the processing time between 2012 and 2016. (Note that the processing time for a citizenship application is from receipt all the way until the final oath ceremony, not just the approval of the application.)

These processing times are almost sure to keep rising, because the government has not kept pace with the volume of incoming applications. After a 2-year spike in 2016–2017, the volume of citizenship applications stabilized in 2018 and fell slightly in 2019, only to surge to historic levels during the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2020.

The likelihood that a citizenship application will be denied has risen slightly over the past few years, peaking in 2018 and falling slightly in 2019.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is much harder in some places than others.

Immigrants in some cities face citizenship application wait times more than four times higher than in other cities. Immigrants in some cities experience a citizenship application denial rate two times higher than the national average, for no apparent reason.

Some cities have four or five government field offices where immigrants can attend their citizenship interviews (once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted). Other cities have none and make immigrants travel over 150 miles to the nearest field office.

New rankings reveal the best and worst places to become a U.S. citizen.

The top 3 best overall metro areas for immigrants to become U.S. citizens are Cleveland, Ohio; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Durham/Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The worst 3 metro areas for immigrants to become U.S. citizens are Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue, Washington; Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, California; and Santa Rosa, CA.