Mumbai: Nearly 46,100 odd Indians obtained US citizenship during 2016, making them the second largest group, even as Mexicans continued to top the chart.
Indians accounted for 6% of the total citizenship conferred by the US government on 7.53 lakh individuals during the fiscal year 2016 (period between October 1, 2015 up to September 30, 2016), according to recent data released by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
A slight year-on-year decline in the number of citizenships being granted is already visible, with immigration from Mexico showing a negative growth.
Immigration experts say that those aspiring to become US citizens are now finding it tougher. There is an extreme vetting of applications and an uptake in denials on ‘odd’ grounds that date back many years.
7.08 lakh applicants waiting for citizenship
At the same time, uncertainty on work visa policies has spurred a significant spike in the number of applications. This has resulted in a huge processing backlog in administrative offices across the US.
The US DHS has provided aggregate data of the number of applications received over the years (a break-up based on country of origin is not available). With 9.72 lakh applications for US citizenship (or naturalization as it is referred to), the fiscal year 2016 saw a rise of 24% over the previous year.
Comparatively, the 7.83 lakh applications in 2015 was only 1% higher than the number in 2014.
Normally only green card holders can opt for the naturalisation process. While a green card is a permit to live and work long term in the US, the flux in visa policies and the focus on more jobs for citizens is inducing many green card holders to opt for US citizenship.
“Indians, similar to other immigrants, now more than ever recognise the value of citizenship. A citizen has certain rights and protections—a fundamental right being that to vote. They also have additional job opportunities. Given the anti-immigrant rhetoric, immigrants are more aware of their need to be protected to the full extent possible,” explains John C Yang, president and executive director of the nonprofit organisation Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
A report released in October by the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) states: The backlog of pending applications has increased by 77% over the past two years. At the end of June 2017, there were 7.08 lakh applicants for US citizenship waiting to be processed, up from 4 lakh applications at the same time two years earlier.