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MUMBAI: Nearly 46,100 odd Indians obtained US citizenship during 2016, making them the second largest group, even as Mexicans continued to top the chart. Indians accounted for 6% of the total citizenship conferred by the US government on 7.53 lakh individuals during the fiscal year 2016 (October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016), according to recent data released by the US department of homeland security (DHS).
A slight year-on-year decline in the number of citizenships being granted is already visible, with immigration from Mexico showing a negative growth. There is an extreme vetting of applications and an uptake in denials on ‘odd’ grounds that date back many years. At the same time, uncertainty on work visa policies has spurred a significant spike in the number of applications.
With 9.72 lakh applications for US citizenship (or naturalisation), the fiscal year 2016 saw a rise of 24% over the previous year. Comparatively, the 7.83 lakh applications in 2015 was only 1% higher than the number in 2014 (see table for more data).
Normally, only green card holders can opt for naturalisation. While green card is a permit to live and work longterm in the US, the flux in visa policies and focus on more jobs for citizens is inducing many green card holders to opt for US citizenship.
“Indians… more than ever recognise the value of citizenship. A citizen has certain rights and protections — a fundamental right being that to vote… additional job opportunities. Given the anti-immigrant rhetoric, immigrants are more aware of the need to be protected,” says John C Yang, president of the non-profit body Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
A report by the National Partnership for New Americans says: The backlog of pending applications has increased by 77% over the past two years. At the end of June 2017, there were 7.08 lakh applicants for US citizenship waiting to be processed, up from 4 lakh at the same time two years earlier.