Nearly a million immigrant adults were naturalized as American citizens in the fiscal year 2022, the third-highest annual tally recorded in U.S. history.

In the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30, 967,400 adults took the oath of allegiance at naturalization ceremonies across the country. When considering cases of children who derived citizenship from their parents and other naturalization cases, a total of 1,023,200 immigrants became U.S. citizens. The number of adult immigrants who became U.S. citizens was only greater in 1996 and 2008 when 1,040,991 and 1,046,539 adults were naturalized, respectively.

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Most naturalized citizens gain citizenship after living in the U.S. as permanent residents for three to five years, depending on how they obtained legal residency. Applicants are generally required to prove they can read, write, and speak English, and understand U.S. history and the system of government.

Unlike permanent residents, immigrants with U.S. citizenship can vote in federal elections, obtain American passports, and sponsor family members to come to the U.S. The top five countries of birth of immigrants who became naturalized U.S. citizens in the fiscal year 2022 were Mexico, India, the Philippines, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.
The rise in naturalizations comes a year after the current U.S. Administration directed federal agencies to promote naturalizations by eliminating bureaucratic barriers in the citizenship process, speeding up cases, and developing a strategy to encourage eligible immigrants to become citizens.

As of June 2022, USCIS was overseeing more than 8.7 million immigration cases, ranging from green card applications to asylum requests and work permit petitions. The number of pending citizenship cases stood at 666,473, a 20% drop from the end of the fiscal year 2021.
Over the past year, government agencies have been tasked with processing various applications from the tens of thousands of Afghans and Ukrainians who have moved to the U.S. Other humanitarian missions include screening some asylum-seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border and reviewing requests from immigrants applying for Temporary Protected Status programs, which have also grown under the current U.S. Administration.

In 2023, USCIS is expected to issue a rule to raise application fees for some programs and make additional applications online-based, as opposed to the paper and mail model the agency has relied on for decades.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash