The process of naturalizing in the U.S. takes time and effort. According to the New York Times, there are many factors that lead green card holders not to apply for U.S. citizenship. In fact, 40 percent of immigrants with permanent residency never apply to naturalize.
One of the many reasons green card holders avoid applying for citizenship is because of the requirements of the application. In most cases, the person applying has to have lived in the country for five years. He or she must give proof of residency through tax forms. There is also a $680 application fee, which to many is enough to hold off in and of itself. Part of the citizenship test is an assessment of English proficiency. For those with a shaky knowledge of the language, this becomes a major point of stress. The other part of the test has to do with U.S. history.
“I haven’t become a citizen because I am terrified of not passing the exam,” Maria Jimenez told the Wall Street Journal.
Some immigrants who hold a green card choose not to naturalize for reasons outside of the daunting requirements. Some countries don’t allow their citizens to acquire a second nationality. Immigrants must then face a difficult decision to give up citizenship in their home country or decide not to naturalize in the U.S., their new home. Others feel that by becoming a U.S. citizen they are giving up a part of themselves.
“I would feel that if I get the American citizenship, I would feel a little less Italian,” Jonathan Wajskol, an Italian graphic designer who moved to the U.S. 30 years ago told the Times.
The 40 percent of legal permanent residents who don’t become citizens miss out on several benefits, including the ability to vote. Like Wajskol, who has been in the U.S. for 30 years, many immigrants have an understanding of American politics and want to be involved.