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Nationality Trends in New Naturalized Citizens in the US

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released its Annual Flow Report analyzing naturalization patterns for the preceding year. This report uses administrative records consisting of information from naturalization applications in the preceding year, drawing conclusions as to present and future trends of immigration.

In 2013, the United States naturalized a total of 779,929 persons, an increase from 757,434 in 2012 and 694,193 in 2011. Within the United States, the largest number of persons naturalizing lived in California (164,792), New York (107,330), and Florida (101,773).Although the number of applications for naturalization filed decreased from 2012 to 2013, the number of applications processed during this period increased, suggesting (perhaps erroneously) that the process has grown more efficient in recent years.

Naturalization rates have increased exponentially in the past century, from less than 120,000 during the 1950s and1960s, to 210,000 during the 1980s, 500,000 during the 1990s, and to 680,000 from 2000-2009. Since 2010, this number has increased to 710,000.

The relative increases have not, however, been geographically consistent. Prior to 1970, most newly naturalized U.S. citizens originated in Europe.  A number of dynamic changes have dramatically altered this pattern; increased legal emigration from Asian countries, the arrival of Indochinese refugees in the 1970s, and the historically higher naturalization rates of Asian immigrants have all caused Asia to be the leading region of origin for most new citizens since 1976. Recent data, however, suggests that this trend may be changing; the report indicates that new citizens originating in Asia (275,700) only very narrowly outnumbered new citizens from North America (271,807).

Person of Mexican birth easily formed the largest group of naturalized citizens in 2013, with 99,385 such persons naturalizing in 2013. India placed a distant second with 49,897, trailed by the Philippines (43,489), the Dominican Republic (39,590), and the People’s Republic of China (35,387). The number of naturalized citizens from Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America increased during this period, especially regarding immigrants from India (up 6,969), the Dominican Republic (up 6,239), Haiti (up 4,366), and the People’s Republic of China (up 3,519). The largest percentage increases occurred in Haiti (23% increase), Iran (21% increase), the Dominican Republic (19% increase), and India (16% increase). Former Asian and North American citizens accounted for 35% of persons naturalizing in 2013, and the 10 countries with the largest number of naturalizations accounted for almost 50% of all newly naturalized citizens.

To complete the naturalization process, an applicant must fulfill requirements promulgated in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), specifying that a foreign national seeking to naturalize must a) be 18 years of age, b) be a U.S. lawful permanent resident, c) have resided in the country for at least 5 years. Additionally, such applicants must speak, read, and write English, have knowledge of U.S. history and civics, and display good moral character. Limited exceptions to these requirement exist for some applicants, including spouses and minor children of U.S. residents and persons with qualifying U.S. military experience. Additionally, naturalization requires filing an N-400 Application for Naturalization and undergoing an interview with U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services to determine eligibility. Finally, qualified residents who have fulfilled all requirements participate in an oath ceremony to officially proclaim their allegiance to their new nation of citizenship.

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