Naturalization is the process of acquiring citizenship or nationality by someone who was not born a citizen or national of that country. The U.S. federal government mandates the policies that determine the naturalization process, which are enforced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
To become a citizen of the United States, an immigrant must meet several requirements. These are briefly outlined below:
An applicant for U.S. citizenship must:
1) be at least 18 years of age;
2) be a current legal permanent resident (green card holder) in the U.S.; and,
3) have established residency by living for 5 years within the US without having left
4) demonstrate proficiency in English, through oral and written tests, as well as some knowledge of U.S. history and government
5) demonstrate good moral character and conduct, particularly by not having served more than 180 days in jail time
Available here: www.ncsl.org/programs/immig/immigcitizen_exesum.htm
Meeting these requirements is nearly impossible for the vast majority of those looking to immigrate to the U.S. today. The biggest obstacle is often obtaining a green card, which provides an immigrant initial legal entry into the United States.
Obtaining a green card in order to legally migrate to the U.S. is nearly impossible for most people looking to immigrate to the U.S. today. To apply for a green card, someone wishing to emigrate needs to qualify under one of three categories. However, these categories do not accommodate the large majority of today’s immigrants. These categories are:
1) Family Ties
• To qualify as a family member a potential-immigrant must be an immediate family member of a current U.S. citizen or legal resident. The family member must prove that, among other things, they are above the poverty line and can take on full responsibility for the family member they wish to bring.
• Even with this restriction, there is much higher demand for this group of visas than there is supply, which is resulting in a significant backlog. Family members must wait years and even decades for their visas to come through.
• One example: a person residing in the US legally with a green card usually has a 5 year wait to receive a green card for their minor child
2) Be a political refugee
• A potential-immigrant who applies for a green card as a political refugee must first go through a rigorous process to prove that any harm that came to them is based on “race, religion, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, or national origin.”
• Poverty or economic conditions do not qualify a person as a refugee, though these are by far the biggest reasons that people choose to migrate
3) Be a skilled or specialized laborer
• Most undocumented immigrants do not work in professions that qualify them for a green card. Only 5,000 green cards are issued annually for low-skilled workers for the entire United States.
• More than 500,000 undocumented immigrants enter the U.S. each year, and most end up working in the service or agricultural sectors
• According to a 2008 report, “Why Don’t They Just Get In Line?”, published by the Immigration Policy Center, the number of applicants for unskilled-labor visas was 5,000. This is grossly insufficient for the demand for these visas, as well as for the numbers of unskilled laborers that are necessary to keep the American economy functioning at its current level.
In 1960 about 50% of the U.S. workforce did not have a high school diploma. Today that number is down to 12%. This indicates that fewer Americans are available to do the unskilled labor jobs such as landscaping, hotel work, and construction work. This deficit is being filled by immigrant laborers. However, the 5,000 visas issued for unskilled laborers accounts for only one-tenth of the total undocumented immigrants that enter the US annually, nearly 70% of whom are part of the U.S. workforce today, as estimated by the Pew Hispanic Center.