An outdated version of the N-600, the N-400
Whitney High School

The truth behind the United States citizenship process

As I sat down with the next applicant in line, she appeared hopeful and somewhat cheerful in an otherwise bleak school gymnasium.

I immediately began to help her fill out the application for Certificate of Citizenship (N-600) with her basic information including her identification numbers, current residence and employer.

When we reached part 11: Information About Your Children, she told me that she had 11 children. I inwardly groaned in frustration since there was only room for four children and I would need to find the forms for additional records. While filling out this section, she explained to me that after moving to the United States over 25 years ago, she had not seen her children since and she frankly had no idea where they were at the moment, dead or alive. This, of course, was another dilemma since that information was required for the application, so instead, I wrote a note and moved on.  

As we were wrapping up the application, I began to explain to her, with my broken, high school level Spanish, the rest of the procedure and the fees required to file. Her eyes grew wide in disbelief when I told her the total filing fee amounted to $1,170. After reading to her the eligibilities for a fee waiver, it was evident that she had lost her original sense of hope and ambition.

As only a volunteer through a local politician, I was heartbroken when I heard her situation, knowing I could not do anything. And as the daughter of two migrants, I carefully reviewed the U.S. Citizenship Process and realized that it was terribly outdated and inefficient.

The process of becoming a U.S. Citizen, a certification that many of us take for granted, is an extremely long, painful and costly procedure.

First, to transition from a temporary resident to a permanent resident, known to many as the green card, costs about $985 to simply file. After obtaining the green card, you have to apply for citizenship, a $1,170 fee, attend an interview and take the citizenship test.

Of course, trying to fill these forms out yourself is overwhelming which is why many migrants hire immigration lawyers who can cost anywhere between $5000 to $7,500, and special cases may even cost $15,000.

As a recent migrant, with no citizenship status, it can be awfully difficult to find a well-paying job, and due to the mere cost of the U.S. Citizenship Process, “the American dream” can become unrealistic for many.  

Other than expenses, another problem presented is how tedious and time consuming this process can be. The application is not written for your everyday Joe and can be very misleading to the average person. After filling out the applications, both over fifteen pages, applicants must file their forms and wait for their appeal to be either granted or denied. This filing can take 6 months to over 3 years.

Many also argue that the Immigration Sector of the government is seen as one of the more insignificant areas, which is why the process can span over such an extensive period of time.

Canadian born Mat Small, a recent migrant, who has been working at a Northern Californian tech firm, shared his experiences with the process and told ABC News, “The process is so opaque, the Immigration and Naturalization Service can take over your life. You can’t change jobs, you can’t call and check up on where you are in the process. If this would occur in any other government agency, people would be up in arms”

To encourage positive immigration, which will ultimately be advantageous for America’s future, the citizenship service must be reformed into a more user-friendly, inexpensive and efficient process. America is the country of migrants, the entire country’s foundation is built on the basis of welcoming immigrants and refugees, which is what makes America so exceptional.

Immigrants bring a different type of work ethic and culture to the United States, which is the reason behind our very diverse society today and why America continues to excel in the modern world and the global economy. Which is why the U.S. citizenship process should be reformed in a way that is easily accessible and available to recent immigrants. 

In what ways do you think this process can be changed? 


  • Reply semirans May 12, 2018 at 10:33 am

    So illegal immigrants can afford 15k to pay a smuggler to get across the border, but filling out some paperwork and paying 1200 is onerous? Immigrants are supposed to be a benefit to the society they are asking to be part of. Part of that is being able to support yourself. If 1200 dollars is too much, how are they expecting to support themselves?


  • Reply Ralph Spooner May 12, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    Why is the cost so high and take so long? OH, I forgot, it is run by the federal government and purse strings controlled by politicians. And just to let you know, one side of my family came over on the Mayflower and the other side as an indentured servant to a silversmith in the beginning years of Boston, Mass.


  • Reply elbern May 12, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    talk about government inefficiency!Applied for my wife then called how long we could stay out of the country.were told up to one year but were not told that if you apply for citizenship you only can stay up to six months.My wife passed all then was denied citizenship on the grounds she stayd 8 months out of the country.we could file an appeal,which could be denied on the same ground,but have to pay the $700 fee either way again!What a crock!
    Also applied for my brother in law 14, in words FOURTEEN years ago,NO PROGRESS,paid the filing fee and were accepted,when we call computer answers will take 18 years.


  • Reply Thelma Dameron May 12, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    There would not be such a long, arduous process if the illegal immigrants were not given presidence over those who want to come legally. If all “dreamers” and DACA’s were sent back to their countries of birth, the process of becoming a citizen would be easier for all those who come legally and willingly to our country. Until we stop letting illegals clog this system, we will always have a problem for others


  • Reply JO May 12, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    You’re allowed to change jobs. I did before my in person interview was scheduled. At the interview the officer goes over every section of the application and makes updates.


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