(Trends Wide) — The number of people who naturalized as U.S. citizens in fiscal year 2021 was the highest in more than a decade, according to new data, beating the Trump administration-era record and rebounding after the pandemic triggered the office closures and service interruption.
About 855,000 people naturalized during the fiscal year, which ended September 30, compared with 625,400 people in fiscal year 2020, according to data provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). English).
In 2019, under the Trump administration, the agency reached an 11-year high of 843,593 naturalizations.
After battling financial and processing problems related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the agency has been able to increase naturalizations, USCIS Director Ur Jaddou told Trends Wide.
“It is a great value to the nation that people who are lawful permanent residents become citizens, so we would like to encourage that,” he said, speaking at a naturalization ceremony at the agency’s headquarters on Tuesday.
In July, Trends Wide first reported that the Biden administration planned to introduce an unprecedented effort to encourage eligible immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship, according to a USCIS official at the time.
The effort stems from one of President Joe Biden’s first presidential decrees that urged federal agencies to develop “welcoming strategies that promote integration, inclusion and citizenship.”
“The idea is to find a government-wide way to reach people who can naturalize,” the USCIS official previously said, adding that there are 9 million people in the US who are lawful permanent residents who may be eligible. to apply for citizenship.
Efforts, for example, could include holding naturalization ceremonies in national parks to raise awareness, partnering with the U.S. Postal Service to display promotional posters, and collaborating with the Department of Veterans Affairs and service organizations. veterans to find ways to educate service members and veterans about citizenship, according to the strategy, titled “Interagency Strategy to Promote Naturalization.”
USCIS is working with 11 federal agencies to integrate and promote naturalization, according to Jaddou, who said the agency’s role in processing naturalization applications is only part of the effort.
“We want to make sure we work together as a team to make sure we are promoting naturalization,” he added.
On Tuesday, Jaddou was joined by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough and retired Army Major General Viet Xuan Luong for a naturalization ceremony in which 12 active duty military men became citizens to celebrate the Day. Veterans.
The new U.S. citizens came from 10 countries: Cameroon, China, El Salvador, Ghana, Jamaica, Mexico, Nepal, the Philippines, Poland, and Vietnam.
Another ceremony will take place Wednesday with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in Baltimore.
When asked how the Biden administration’s efforts contrast with those of the Trump administration, Jaddou said, “Number one is called public participation.”
“That is one of the most important things that we have changed, is to make sure that we are working with the public in as many places as possible,” he said.
The agency is also looking to simplify its forms, Jaddou said. “Some of them are too long and too difficult to understand.”
The record for naturalizations was in 2008, with more than a million people becoming U.S. citizens, an increase that was attributed to upcoming fee increases and efforts to encourage eligible applicants to apply for citizenship.