A new White House Campaign to make the final steps to citizenship easier for legal immigrants, may add millions of voters in time for next year’s presidential election. Currently, according to recent statistics, there are approximately 8.8 million legal immigrants in this country who are eligible to become American citizens. The citizenship campaign is part of the Executive Actions campaign that President Obama announced in November of last year.
The White House is working with immigrant groups at the local level to facilitate citizen workshops and naturalization ceremonies. A total of four citizenship ambassadors have been named, including former pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mexican-born Fernando Valenzuela, who recently became a U.S. Citizen. In addition to the ambassadors and overall PR initiative to make immigrants feel more welcome, the campaign hopes to encourage legal immigrants to become citizens by making the actual application process easier and more accessible. For example, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency is working on methods to help immigrants study and prepare for the challenging exams that they must pass in order to become citizens. The agency will offer practice tests on cellphones and workshops in rural areas.
Naturalization Process Changes On the Way
So what are some of the new changes at the forefront of this new initiative?
- USCIS will begin using ELIS (Electronic Immigration System) to notify lawful permanent residents when they are potentially eligible to become citizens as well as when to renew their green cards
- USCIS is now accepting credit card payments for the naturalization filing fee. For most residents, the filing fee is $680. Applicants may now charge the fee to their credit cards by filling out form G-1450. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover are accepted.
- Applicants will soon be able to locate English language and history preparation classes through the new myUCSIS website (www.my.uscis.gov), much in the way one can locate a civil surgeon on the USCIS.gov website by typing in one’s local area code.
- Additionally, applicants will soon be able to e-file the N-400 as well as the N-600.
N-400 Processing Times Update for New Jersey
Due to a variety of factors, processing of citizenship applications for New Jersey has somewhat slowed down. According to a recent update from USCIS, the Newark District Office is taking approximately 4 to 5 months to schedule an interview; Mt. Laurel is taking between 3 to 4 months. Of course, USCIS is not bound by these numbers and certain cases can take longer due to individual circumstances (ie., missed biometrics, fingerprints that cannot be read, background checks, name checks, etc.).
For the latest information on all things citizenship, contact our office.