Respect Diversity + Inclusion

Immigration naturalizations in the US highest in a decade

Naturalizations among immigrants from almost every country have rebounded since the pandemic started.

Story at a glance

  • The number of immigrants becoming citizens via naturalization is at 10-year high, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

  • Naturalizations are up among immigrants from every country except China.

  •  While historically immigrants from China have been one of the top 10 groups to earn citizenship through naturalization, naturalizations have gone down by 20 percent compared to the pre-pandemic average.

The number of immigrants choosing to become citizens is increasing in the United States after a striking drop at the beginning of the pandemic, a new study shows.  

An analysis from the Pew Research Center published Friday found that over 900,000 U.S. immigrants became citizens of the U.S. in the 2022 fiscal year.  

That total represents the third-highest number of immigrants becoming citizens in a single year on record and the most of in any fiscal year since 2008, according to the analysis.  

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Pew researchers looked at data from the Department of Homeland Security and the Census Bureau released during the first three-quarters of the year. 

The spike in naturalizations coincides with an uptick in immigrants receiving lawful green cards and more foreign students, tourists and other lawful temporary migrants arriving in the country after an early pandemic dip, according to another Pew survey.  

Researchers found that naturalizations in the United States are back to where they were before the pandemic began in 2020. 

For about roughly a decade before the pandemic, the average number of naturalizations per three months in the United States was 190,000.  

That number plummeted to 81,000 between April and June of 2020 during the early months of the coronavirus outbreak, the analysis found.  

Naturalizations finally rebounded and surpassed the country’s quarterly average by 10,0000 in early 2021. 

Naturalizations from immigrants from most countries have gone up by 20 percent their pre-pandemic averages, researchers found.  

But researchers were surprised that there has only been an 8 percent increase in naturalizations from immigrants from Mexico compared to the nation’s pre-pandemic average.  

The country has home to the most immigrants who achieve citizenship through naturalization every year for the past 25 years.  

Meanwhile, naturalizations among immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa have gone up by 15 to 26 percent more compared to their pre-pandemic average, according to the survey.  

One exception to the upward trend is China. The naturalization rate among immigrants from China has plummeted, decreasing by 20 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels.  

Researchers also found that more immigrants are seeking U.S. citizenship than are being naturalized. In June, there was a backlog of about 673,000 naturalization applications, down from over a million in December of 2020.  

But that number is still head and shoulders above the amount of pending naturalization applications between 2012 and 2016.