More immigrants became US citizens last year even as immigration policies tightened

Take the oath and become a US citizen.
Take the oath and become a US citizen.
Image: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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As US immigration policies get more aggressive, citizenship becomes an ever more valuable asset.

More than 544,000 immigrants became US citizens in the first three quarters of fiscal year 2018, overall a 15% increase from the same period a year ago, according to the latest data from the US Department of Homeland Security. The largest year-to-year increase occurred in the first quarter of 2018, however there was a slight decrease in the third quarter.

Most immigrants can apply for US citizenship after being a permanent resident for five years, or three years after marrying a US citizen. The US immigration agency estimated (pdf) that there were 13.2 million permanent residents in 2015, and 9 million among them would be eligible for citizenship upon application.

But it’s not as simple as just spending time in the US. Prospective citizens have to pay a $725 application fee, in addition to passing a citizenship exam, which may be challenging even for those who’ve spent their entire lives in the US. Many didn’t see the urgency to apply until last year, citing the importance to vote in elections at the time.

There hasn’t been any big change in the number of new citizens in recent years, but the project for 2018 may indicate the beginning of an uptick.