It may seem counter-intuitive with the general anti-immigrant sentiment pervading U.S. policy these days, but those wishing to maintain a residence in the United States permanently should consider applying for U.S. naturalization now. Probably the most important reason is that U.S. citizenship is durable but permanent residence (green card) status can be fragile and can be lost because of extended absence. Other reasons include:
- The fee will go up soon. The Department of Homeland Security has proposed increasing the naturalization fee from $725 to $1,170, and ending a reduced-fee program for low-income applicants.
- The Trump administration wants to make changes to the U.S. citizenship test’s civics portion to be rolled out in late 2020 or early 2021, and is also considering changes in the English language proficiency test.
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is aggressive about enforcing removals, such as for a conviction of a crime even where there was no intentional bad activity.
- If you want to stay in the United States, it is good to commit as a U.S. citizen and have all of a citizen’s rights and benefits, such as the right to vote, and to be fully involved in civic affairs without fear.
- To be eligible for certain tax and estate tax benefits, you must be a U.S. citizen.
- A green card is valid for only 10 years and renewing it takes months, requires fees and biometrics, and there is always the risk that it will not be renewed due to an unforeseeable problem or a change in policy.
In short, if you’re eligible, the time to apply to naturalize as a U.S. citizen is now.
- Proposed naturalization fee increase, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-11-14/pdf/2019-24366.pdf; see also https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-12-09/pdf/2019-26521.pdf
- Washington Post, “The Trump Administration is Raising the Application Fee for U.S. Citizenship. That Will Cost the U.S. Later On,” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/07/trump-administration-is-raising-application-fee-us-citizenship-that-will-cost-us-later/
- National Public Radio, “Trump Administration Revising U.S. Citizenship Test,” https://www.npr.org/2019/07/20/743786884/trump-administration-revising-u-s-citizenship-test
- National Law Review, “USCIS Revising, Updating Naturalization Test,” https://www.natlawreview.com/article/uscis-revising-updating-naturalization-test
- USCIS, “Apply for Citizenship,” https://www.uscis.gov/citizenship/learners/apply-citizenship
- USCIS, “Ten Steps to Naturalization,” https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/files/M-1051.pdf
Contact your WR attorney for advice in specific situations.