Wilner & O'Reilly, APLC
One Practice. One Focus. One Passion: Immigration Law.

High costs and language tests can be barriers to citizenship

California is a popular destination for Mexican immigrants who have received a green card and are able to legally live and work in the United States. Studies have found that the overwhelming majority of these immigrants hope to go on to become naturalized American citizens, but many of them never actually go on to take this step. Government data reveals that approximately 8.8 million green card holders have not applied for naturalization, and this is often blamed on the barriers that have been placed in their way.

The high costs associated with the naturalization process are often cited as the main factor preventing permanent residents from applying for naturalization. The cost of submitting a naturalization application is currently $680, and this is often beyond the means of immigrant families struggling to pay their bills. There is also no family payment cap in place, which means that each member of a family hoping for naturalization must pay the fee. These fees are also nonrefundable should the application be denied.

The English language and civic tests are another reason why many immigrants are hesitant to apply for citizenship. Those with poor English skills or who have not had the benefit of a comprehensive education often fear that they will be unable to pass these tests, and many of them lack the means necessary to enroll in training courses designed to better prepare them. A challenging fiscal climate has also led to deep cuts in federal adult education programs.

Naturalized citizens are able to vote, obtain government jobs and travel without restriction, and experienced citizenship attorneys may be able to provide assistance to permanent residents considering naturalization. Attorneys could point out that waiver programs are in place to ease the financial burden for green card holders with limited incomes, and they could also explain the various study programs and materials available for those preparing for the English language and civics tests.

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