A fresh new wind is blowing in US naturalization policy! While Donald Trump tried to build walls, President Joe Biden is reaching out to new immigrants. Even more so than that: he is encouraging Green Card holders to become US citizens and is taking some specific measures to do so.
Take the chance of living in the USA and apply for the official US Green Card Lottery!
Not long into his presidency, on February 2nd, 2021, Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14012, removing some of the hurdles Donald Trump had put in place for new immigrants.
Currently, there are about 13.6 million permanent residents living in the United States holding a Green Card. 9.2 million of them could theoretically apply to become US citizens immediately, but are not doing so. These people and other immigrants who are still in the Green Card process or in asylum proceedings are to be addressed by the measures that have now been unveiled as a result of the Executive Order.
The most significant outcome to date is the creation of the Naturalization Working Group (NWG), which will provide support and guidance to all US authorities involved in naturalization.
“Can you define America for me?”
“Yeah. I can in one word, one word: possibilities, possibilities.” That’s what America is built on. [...] We believe anything is possible in America.”
- President Biden's response to Chinese President Xi Jinping's question on July 2nd, 2021
The Naturalization Working Group basically aims to encourage permanent residents to apply for US citizenship if they are eligible to do so.
The program also aims to educate about this eligibility, provide training to prepare for the citizenship test or to acquire the necessary English language skills, and provide financial support to organizations that educate about integration programs, particularly in otherwise hard-to-reach remote areas or populations affected by discrimination.
In the future, pro-immigration and pro-naturalization topics are to be featured and promoted more prominently on the social media accounts of all government authorities. For example, the Department of Agriculture is to use its Twitter account to highlight the benefits provided by immigrants and new US citizens, even in rural areas.
Through foreign-language posts on social media, the foreign workers themselves are also to be motivated to have themselves naturalized, so that they can play a more active role in the US society.
Also, communication with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and all other agencies is to become easier for foreigners in the USA. To this end, a new procedure for issuing the Social Security number, which is extremely important in the USA, is to be introduced soon.
All new Green Card holders arriving in the USA will then be automatically assigned a Social Security number through the "Enumeration Beyond Entry" program.
Our numerous Green Card winners can tell you a thing or two about how complicated it used to be to apply for them manually at a Social Security Field Office. All of this will become easier now.
The more complex US citizenship test, which was only introduced at the end of 2020, is reverted to the (simpler) 2008 version.
Several US agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, the Departments of Education, Labor, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, Justice, and the Social Security Administration, have also been instructed to come up with a plan within 180 days, which aims at promoting naturalization in all areas of public life and reaching out to people who are entitled to naturalization.
For the time being, things are moving forward in small steps. For example, the USCIS has been instructed to process applications more quickly again, despite the Corona crisis, in order to help immigrants.
While only about 50,000 applications for US citizenship were processed per month in late 2020, the number nearly doubled again to 90,000 in March and April 2021.
However, a much bigger project is planned – a comprehensive reform of US immigration law. This should also provide a path to US citizenship for the roughly 11 million "DREAMERs," immigrants who came to the USA as minors.
For years, Donald Trump had unsuccessfully tried to take away their temporary right of residence granted by Barack Obama. Nevertheless, their stay is still on shaky ground, yet now they can dream again!
Participants in the official Green Card Lottery are equally able to dream! Almost all US administrations since 1994 had no particular focus on this unique program, which is explicitly designed to promote diversity among immigrants to the US. Various drafts of legislation, some of them even signed by Democratic congressmen, have called for the termination of this program over the last 25 years.
It took Joe Biden to recognize how beneficial this kind of immigration is not only for the US labor market, but also for the worldwide image of the USA as an open and tolerant multi-ethnic country. In his draft, he not only demands the program's continuation, but also its expansion from 55,000 to 80,000 Green Cards annually!
dhs.gov, uscis.gov, whitehouse.gov, wng.org