Immigrants wishing to become permanent citizens of the United States may find the process a little easier with the new funding changes set to take place as early as December 2020. The legal process is called citizenship through naturalization, and the Trump administration is allocating $10 million to the Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program for communities across the country.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it is accepting applications for two funding opportunities under the grant program: the Citizenship Instruction and Naturalization Application Services and the Refugee and Asylee Assimilation Program. The first will fund up to 36 organizations that offer both citizenship instruction and naturalization application services to lawful, permanent residents. The Refugee and Asylee grant will fund up to four organizations that provide individualized services to residents who entered the country under the US Refugee Admissions Program or to those who were granted asylum. Both have an application deadline of August 13.
So, what does it take to become a naturalized citizen?
One of the hardest things about the process is how long it takes, but the actual steps may not be as difficult as some think. Here are the main requirements:
- Live in the US as a permanent legal resident (not illegal immigrant) for five continuous years.
- Show physical presence in the United States for at least 30 months during the last five years.
- Have good moral character, which means a clean criminal record for the previous five years and not submitting false information as part of any immigration procedure.
- Able to read, write, and speak basic English, and have some knowledge of US history and government.
- Be willing to support and defend the United States and the Constitution.
One thing many people fear is taking the tests, which requires the applicant to be able to read, write, and understand basic English. A USCIS representative conducts an interview to determine command of the English language. The reading portion of the test requires the person to read one out of three sentences correctly, and the writing section has a requirement of getting one out of three sentences correct.
The civics test is made up of ten questions from a list of 100. Applicants must correctly answer six to pass. Study guides with all the possible questions and answers are available for free.
There are organizations that help low-income foreigners in obtaining citizenship, and the newly allotted funding and grants can be awarded to these programs.
Some do feel that, because this only helps people who have already been living in the United States as a legal resident for five years, it is unfair to those who cross illegally or overstay their visas. Whether or not those who violate the law to come to or remain in this country have any right to citizenship is a hotly contested topic in American politics. However, while this money won’t help anyone who doesn’t qualify for citizenship, it can, at least, improve the lives of those who do.
USCIS said more than 750,000 people became American citizens in fiscal year 2018, “a five-year high in new oaths of citizenship.” With this additional funding, that number is likely to grow.