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A Rockier Road to U.S. Citizenship? Findings of a Survey on Changing Naturalization Procedures

Updated July 23, 2020 | From Migration Policy Institute

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In July 2020, Migration Policy Institute (MPI) released a new report, Findings of a Survey on Changing Naturalization Procedures. This report presents MPI’s analysis of a 2019 national survey conducted by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center of 110 naturalization assistance providers. The study aims to understand how USCIS naturalization procedures have changed during the Trump administration. MPI also held a webinar to discuss the report featuring former USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez, former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Commissioner Doris Meissner, MPI researcher Randy Capps, and ILRC Executive Director Eric Cohen.

The report finds that USCIS continues to approve the vast majority of citizenship applications, with an approval rate that has hovered around the 90-percent mark since fiscal year 2010, but the time it takes to process an application has grown considerably. This appears to be due at least in part to changing adjudication policies and practices.

These changes were underway before a trio of new 2020 developments that threaten to further increase the application backlog and make it more difficult for eligible immigrants to access citizenship: a COVID-19-related suspension of USCIS operations for three months, the likely furlough of two-thirds of the agency’s staff due to a major budget shortfall, and a planned increase in the cost of filing a citizenship application alongside new restrictions on eligibility for fee waivers for low-income applicants.

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