As the immigration debate rages, with emotions running high, with children separated from their parents at the border, with illegal and legal immigrants often lumped together in the same discussion, with nationalism (build the wall) vs. we all were immigrants at one time (unless we are native Americans by definition) …
I ask myself:
Is the process for legal immigration really that difficult? Are the border clashes really necessary?
The answers are: It depends. And yes, probably.
For those trying to enter illegally, the process is complicated, if not impossible.
Immigrants who are educated and/or have family members already legally here have a much easier time entering the United States.
Everyone who plans to live here must have a valid reason for doing so. Future citizenship often is one of those reasons.
According to usa.gov, the citizenship process requires time and effort:
U.S. Citizenship through Naturalization
Becoming a citizen through naturalization is a process in which a non-U.S. citizen voluntarily becomes an American citizen. U.S. citizens owe their allegiance to the United States and are entitled to its protection and to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens.
To become a U.S. citizen, you must:
- Have had a Permanent Resident (Green) Card for at least five years, or for at least three years if you’re filing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen
- If you apply for naturalization less than six months before your Permanent Resident Card expires, or do not apply for naturalization until your card has already expired, you must renew your card.
- You can apply for naturalization before you receive your new Green Card, but you’ll need to submit a photocopy of the receipt of your Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, when you receive it.
- Meet certain eligibility requirements including being
- At least 18 years old at the time of filing
- Able to read, write, and speak basic English
- A person of good moral character
- Go through the ten step naturalization process which includes
- Determining your eligibility to become an American citizen
- Preparing and submitting form N-400, the application for naturalization
- Taking the U.S. Naturalization Test and having a personal interview
Helpful Resources For Citizenship
- Learn English
- Watch a video about the interview and test process
- For more information, visit the Citizenship Resources Center
Take the United States Naturalization Test
One of the requirements in the naturalization process is taking the United States Naturalization Test.
To prepare for the naturalization test, check out these resources:
- 100 Civics Questions and Answers (with MP3 audio)
- Naturalization Test Study Materials – includes study aids for both the civics and English tests.
- Naturalization Self Test – study tool to help you test your knowledge of U.S. history and government.
Certificates of Citizenship and Naturalization
Certificates of Citizenship and Naturalization are proof of your U.S. citizenship.
Get a Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization
Foreign nationals receive a Certificate of Naturalization when they become American citizens. Get certified copies of a Certificate of Naturalization.
How hard is it to become a U.S. citizen? Here are three answers to that question from quora.com, an online question-and-answer site:
Once you are a permanent resident, then becoming a U.S. citizen is surprisingly straightforward and painless. It’s getting an immigration visa and permanent residency that’s the hard part.
How difficult that is depends a lot on who you are and where you are from. If you have money or skills, getting the U.S. visas and permanent residency is not difficult. If you have neither, it can be impossible.
Joseph Wang, Chief Scientist, Bitquant Research
First, become a permanent resident
This depends largely on how difficult it is for you to first become a permanent resident (i.e., get a green card). If you’re highly educated and can find work with a sponsoring company, you can expect to attain citizenship in just over five years after becoming a permanent resident. If you marry a citizen, you can apply for a green card and then attain citizenship in only three years.
However, if you are less educated or cannot find work with a sponsoring company, there’s often no obvious path to becoming a permanent resident. In the worst case you have little education and no way of getting a sponsoring employer. In this case, the choice is to either stay out or enter/stay illegally.
The process is … quite tedious and drawn out. The most difficult part is finding an employer who is willing to work with a candidate throughout the entire process. The employer will incur substantial costs which serves as a deterrent for many. Add onto this government-imposed limits on the number of green cards granted per year and you get an immigration system that is tricky to navigate for even those that best equipped to do so.
Christopher Pinchak, permanent resident from the land up north
Becoming a U.S. citizen is certainly a process, but that doesn’t mean it’s unattainable. There are several moving parts that will influence the best strategy for each individual to obtain citizenship. Let’s break down the core ways that you can become a U.S. citizen.
- Green Card
If you select the Green Card option, then there are basic requirements you must meet. You have to be at least 18 years old and had your Green Card for at least 5 years.
- Marry a U.S. Citizen
To qualify under this arrangement, your spouse must have lived in the U.S. for at least 3 years and you must be a Green Card holder for at least 3 years. Additionally, you have to indicate that you have been living as a married couple during this time.
- Spouse of U.S. Citizen Employed Abroad
If your spouse lives and works in the U.S., but you are employed abroad, you may be able to gain citizenship. There is not minimum time requirement you must meet as a Green Card holder, but you have to prove that you will immediately depart from your abroad location once naturalization occurs.
- Join the Military
Current military members or certain veterans may be eligible for citizenship due to their service to the country. There is a residency requirement for at least 30 months out of 5 years unless you were stationed abroad due to your military service.
- Automatic Citizenship Through Birth
The requirements are that both parents were U.S. citizens at the time of your birth and your parents were married at the time of birth, and at least one parent lived in the U.S., or its territories, or both, prior to your birth. If you were born after November 14, 1986, one parent must be a U.S. citizen at the time of birth and your parents were married at the time of birth.
Many people feel incredibly overwhelmed by the citizenship process. It’s lengthy, tedious, and at times discouraging if you don’t have proper resources to guide you.
Raad Ahmed, Founder of LawTrades
These discussions help me understand why Mexicans and others are trying to enter our country illegally. They likely don’t have family members already here, and they don’t appear to have an employer sponsoring them.
According to news reports, many are trying to escape unsafe living conditions at home. They see the United States as a place of refuge.
I’m sure the issue is much more complex than this. Why arrest farm workers already here, people who are trying to contribute to society and working at jobs that tax-paying Americans won’t do?
Is there a way to expand the immigration process to allow for these types of people to enter the United States legally?
How many illegal immigrants want to arrive just to claim welfare benefits? (How many U.S. citizens play that game as well, legally?) Those type of illegal immigrants may get the publicity, but are they a majority?
Make the process easier
Citizenship rules require immigrants to know basic English, among other things. Can our schools, colleges and universities offer this to those who need it? Perhaps community colleges are a great place to teach English as a second language. Many schools already offer this, but perhaps those programs should be expanded.
My point: Can we make the citizenship process easier for those who truly want to become contributing members of our society? Can we enable, encourage, support, assist, offer a hand up (not a hand out) to those who need it?
The United States has 300 million people. There’s room for more here, I’m sure.
The United States is different than other countries. We are newer than most, not much more than 200 years old. Some nations in Europe and Asia have been around for thousands of years. Most Americans are immigrants.
We can’t compare our brief history with the lengthy past that other nations enjoy.
We are our brother’s keeper.
I wish we lived that way – in our daily lives, in addition to our overall status as a nation.
Then, needy people wouldn’t have to break laws to get in, and people with a conscience wouldn’t have to break laws to try to keep them here.
Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
Jesus, in Matthew 7:1-2