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Why and Why Not American Citizenship

Becoming an American citizen is a tremendous honor and no easy accomplishment. There are major reasons as to why certain immigrants run for American citizenship while the others, though eligible are content sleeping on a permanent resident status.

Why American Citizenship?


The desire to acquire benefits, for oneself or one’s family, is a major theme in the reasons immigrants give for taking the initiative towards naturalization.

Opportunity, Quality of Life

The desire to go for economic opportunities, to advance one’s position and to live in the greater comfort of the American way of life is another dominant motive that explains the interest in naturalization.

Legal Rights, Civil Rights, Political Participation

The third reason why immigrants go for citizenship is to fight discrimination and ensure equal treatment. Only a small number say they want to become citizens to qualify to vote. Voting and civic engagement may receive high priority as civic values, but they do not appear high on the open-ended list of reasons for becoming a citizen.

Family Reunification

The urge to unite with family or to help other family members who want to come to the United States.

Reasons for Not Becoming an American Citizen

Why is naturalization so frequently the road not taken? A few reasons are:

  • not yet eligible
  • don’t have time
  • cost
  • inadequate English knowledge
  • don’t know how

Procedural Barriers

Though there is some debate about the importance of language skill or educational level as a procedural barrier in the naturalization process, it needs mention that it is language skill and not educational level, that is the barrier. Rates of naturalization are strongly related to English language ability. The test is disproportionately a test of English ability. Knowledge of US civics and government are not dependent on a high school or college education and can be gained by persons of almost all educational levels. Lack of formal education is not a barrier to passing the test.


The cost (submission fee) is at times proposed as a barrier in the naturalization process.

Ties to home country

A second theme from the reasons for not pursuing naturalization is that many do not intend to remain in the United States. Ease of reverse migration and proximity to one’s home country allows immigrants to maintain their distinct culture and language to a far greater degree.

The above mentioned are only few of the reasons and does not include all.

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