Behind the Naturalization Backlog: Causes, Context and Concerns
This Fact Sheet examines the dramatic increase in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing times for naturalization applications, driven in part by the rush to file applications before USCIS’ comprehensive fee-increase schedule nearly doubled the cost of applying for citizenship from $330 to $595 in July 2007. This report identifies additional factors which may have contributed to this application surge, investigates the reasons behind the federal government’s inability to cope with the increase in applications, and highlights the concerns voiced by critics regarding the naturalization backlog.
Authors of this report suggest that, in addition to the substantial fee increase, citizenship campaigns launched by immigrant advocacy groups as well as the charged political climate surrounding immigration reform and illegal immigration may have contributed to the increase in naturalization applications over the course of fiscal year 2007. The report also indicates insufficient staffing, an outdated paper-based processing system, and the lengthy Federal Bureau of Investigation name-check process as contributing factors for the increase in processing times.
Despite efforts by USCIS to address the backlog by hiring additional employees and sending personnel to processing centers experiencing greater workloads, the report portrays dissatisfaction among immigrant advocates and lawmakers who have criticized USCIS for not properly anticipating and preparing for the spike in applications, and floundering in its promise to decrease processing times through the revenue generated from the fee increase.