Many people come to the United States with the ultimate goal of becoming a citizen. Most spend years with a green card before they can apply for naturalization. By the time they can apply, they are excited and fully prepared to become a new citizen.
Unfortunately, the approval process for applications has become increasingly long. Five years ago, about 35,000 immigrants were waiting for naturalization in Florida. Today, there are over 60,000 people held up in that backlog.
Why is the backlog so long?
There are several reasons the backlog of immigrants has spiked in recent years. First, it is quite common for citizenship applications to flow in right before a presidential election – which is exactly what happened in 2016. However, the applications continued to stream in for several years following the election.
Experts say that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has not kept pace with the high number of applications. USCIS may not have the resources to accommodate the numbers. Also, USCIS officers are vetting individuals more intensely than they have in the past. This requires extra time and effort, which slows down the process.
Furthermore, the time it takes for each USCIS office to process applications varies by city. For example, if you apply in Miami’s field office, you will endure a wait time up to 23 months – despite the national average wait time being 10 months.
What are the repercussions of the backlog?
One of the biggest downfalls for those in the backlog is having to wait for citizenship rights. This includes the right to vote – which could have a great impact in Florida, one of the country’s biggest swing states.
Citizenship also grants immigrants the right to run for elected office, apply for certain federal government jobs and travel with a U.S. passport. Generally, it also gives them priority when petitioning to bring family members over and grants citizenship to their children who are born here.
Unfortunately, if you applied for citizenship today, it is unclear how long you’d have to wait to experience these rights.
The backlog is a pressing issue for many reasons. It can be frustrating for immigrants to wait longer than they expected to. But it could also impact the future of the U.S. and how immigration looks in upcoming years.