US citizenship naturalisations rebound in 2021 as pandemic subsides

US citizenship naturalisations rebound in 2021 as pandemic subsides
Total of 808,000 people naturalised in year to 30 September

The number of people who became US citizens in fiscal year 2021 has rebounded in the wake of the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lockdowns and office closures had disrupted the work of US Citizenship and Immigration Services for much of 2020.

The government fiscal year ends on 30 September, and a total of 808,000 people were naturalised during the preceding year. In FY 2020, that number stood at 625,400, according to data from the agency.

The 2021 figure sees a rebound close to the 11-year peak of 843,593 naturalisations reached in 2019 in the penultimate year of the Trump administration.

The Biden administration is making unprecedented efforts to encourage lawful permanent residents to apply for citizenship. Approximately nine million “green card” holders are eligible to apply.

An early executive order from President Joe Biden asked federal agencies to develop “welcoming strategies that promote integration, inclusion, and citizenship”.

A USCIS official told CNN: “The idea is to find a whole-of-government way to reach out to people who are able to naturalise.”

The agency is working with 11 others to promote naturalisation and go beyond simply processing applications. There are plans to streamline the application process and simplify the required forms.

“We want to ensure that we are working together as a team to ensure that we’re promoting naturalization,” USCIS Director Ur Jaddou commented.

Ms Jaddou took on the role in August, having previously served as chief counsel at USCIS from June 2014 to January 2017. She is the daughter of immigrants from Iraq and Mexico and was born and raised in California.

One way in which agencies are cooperating is in reaching out to veterans and active-duty military who may not yet be citizens but are eligible due to their service.

On Tuesday Ms Jaddou was accompanied by Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough and retired Army Major General Viet Xuan Luong for a naturalisation ceremony in honour of Veterans Day.

Twelve active-duty members of the military became US citizens. They came from Cameroon, China, El Salvador, Ghana, Jamaica, Mexico, Nepal, the Philippines, Poland, and Vietnam.

Another ceremony was held on Wednesday with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The record for the most naturalisations in a year was set in 2008 when more than one million people became citizens.

A similar push was made that year to encourage eligible applicants to apply, but it is also believed that an upcoming fee increase motivated applicants to get their forms filed with the agency.