Some California residents may have been among the nearly 250,000 people who applied for citizenship over a four-month period beginning in October 2015. It is the highest number in several years.
It is believed that the increase is in part due to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of presidential candidate Donald Trump. Advocacy groups have been working hard to assist permanent residents in becoming citizens. They say they have already reached around 500,000 people through a campaign of phone calls and messages by mail and online. They report doing 300 workshops around the country and helping nearly 13,000 people with application paperwork. There are about 8.8 million legal residents in the country who are eligible for citizenship. The goal is to get 1 million people to apply for citizenship before the fiscal year ends in September. There are a number of requirements for people who want to become citizens including living in the country for a certain number of years and passing English and citizenship tests.
A similar large increase in naturalization occurred in 2007. This was just before the cost of the application rose to $595 from $330. Another jump occurred in 1996 when a strong immigration enforcement law was passed. A third happened in 1986 when 3 million illegal immigrants were given legal permanent residency.
Immigration law and the process of obtaining citizenship can be complex. Regulations may change or may be difficult to understand. Applying for citizenship or permission to remain in the country can also be a stressful time because so much may be at stake for a person and their family. People who are seeking citizenship and who are unsure whether they are eligible might want to consult an attorney.