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Eligible immigrants face obstacles to citizenship

Immigrants in California who have green cards may want to become naturalized citizens but might face a number of obstacles. One of those is financial. With the naturalization fee set at $680 with no refund if the application is denied and no cap for families, many immigrants may opt for the less expensive and complicated green card renewal instead.

The English language requirement may be another barrier. In some cases, individuals underestimate their proficiency, or they might not have time to take classes to bring their language up to the needed standards. They may also be unaware of what type of knowledge is needed for the civics exam.

Despite these obstacles, many immigrants want to naturalize. Citizens have more rights and benefits than non-citizens. A 2012 survey found that 96 percent of people with green cards wanted citizenship, and a 2014 survey reported that nearly half of immigrants had taken an American history and government class while more than 60 percent took an English class. However, there are still approximately 8.8 million permanent residents eligible for citizenship who are not pursuing naturalization.

A further obstacle is that many adult education courses have been cut. However, the government has also taken steps to make the process more accessible. A fee waiver is available for low-income individuals, and a partial waiver may be implemented.

Individuals who are seeking naturalization may wish to consult an attorney who might be able to identify these sorts of obstacles and guide them through. People may find an attorney useful in other situations as well, including potential deportation, dealing with different types of visas and helping family members to immigrate. Immigration law is complex and may change rapidly, and having an attorney who can keep up with these complexities might make the process go more smoothly.

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  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
  • Avvo
  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Irvine Chamber