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Citizenship Applications at a 4-year High, But It May Not Be Due to Trump Mania

statue-of-liberty-164294_640A Pew Research Center report shows close to 250,000 undocumented immigrants flocked to immigration centers around the country to apply for U.S citizenship in the four-month period since October 2015.

In addition, preliminary data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) shows that approximately 249,609 legal permanent residents submitted complete N-400 application this fiscal year, a 5 percent increase from the same months that led to the 2012 presidential election. The number also signifies a 13 percent increase from the same period in October 2014 to January 2015.

Donald Trump the Cause?

Jens Manuel Krogstad, a researcher at Pew, understands the effect Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has on immigrants, what with his strong anti-immigration rhetoric. The real estate mogul has promised to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and issue a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants.

However, the surge of citizenship applications may have nothing to do with Trump.

As it turns out, previous years have seen larger spikes in applications. For example, in 2007, the USCIS received 1.4 million applications, but that spike was attributed to an announced $265-fee increase.

Likewise, stringent adjustments to immigration laws naturally led to the second-largest spike of applications, wherein 900,000 immigrants and PR status holders submitted applications. This was after Congress cut back on the benefits non-citizens were entitled to.

According to Krogstad, “Though not yet available, it’s possible the data will show the number of naturalization applications increased this spring — number have spiked in March and April in past years. Applications may also continue to rise into the summer, though how many of these new applicants will become naturalized in time to register to vote remains to be seen.”

The Cost of U.S. Citizenship

Applicants usually have to wait for years before receiving citizenship. The process of successfully filing an application alone can take up to 7 months, and unless you’re married to a U.S. citizen, legal permanent residents need to have been in the country no less than 5 years to be eligible for citizenship. And even then it’s not a guarantee.

Adjustments to Fees

Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security revised its USCIS fee schedule, increasing the $595 application fee by 21 percent, and adding a new unexplained fee.

According to the DHS memo, “Current fees do not recover the full costs of the services it provides.” Without the increase, the USCIS expects losing $560 million for the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE), which determines the eligibility of immigrants for benefits.

Advocacy Groups Encoruaging Applications

While the Pew Research Center report doesn’t see a connection between Trump’s candidacy and the spike in applications, the efforts of labor unions, immigration advocacy groups, and non-profits are a reflection of the fear many immigrants feel of a Republican-controlled White House.

To learn more about the process of applying for citizenship, call Lyttle Law Firm today at (512) 215.5225 to schedule a consultation.