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Why some green card holders are not pursuing citizenship

Becoming a legal U.S. citizen is something that people all over the world strive for. Many people spend years or even decades waiting for a visa or trying to complete the requirements necessary to even be eligible for citizenship. The process can be a long and hard one for many immigrants in New York.

But why, then, are thousands of people who are eligible to apply for naturalization putting it off? Recent estimates put the number of people who choose not to naturalize, even though they have green cards, at about 40 percent. This may be a surprising statistic, especially to those who want nothing more than to become a naturalized citizen of the U.S. So why are so many people choosing not to become citizens?

There are many factors that sources say may play a role in a person's decision against naturalization. Some people have such a strong national identity with their country of origin that becoming a citizen in another country makes them feel as though they are giving up a piece of themselves. Others are not allowed to have dual citizenship in the U.S. and other countries.

But there are a number of factors in a person's decisions that have more to do with the citizenship and naturalization process in this country than anything else. For starters, there is a $680 fee just to apply. This may be too much money for some people, while others would rather use their money elsewhere. People also may fundamentally disagree with immigration policies or they may simply lack the desire to follow through with the confusing and overwhelming process, so they decide to just avoid it.

However, even though they are lawful permanent residents, green card holders who do not naturalize will face some challenges. They cannot vote or leave the country for extended periods of time. They are still at risk of being deported and they cannot access certain types of government assistance. 

Even though the citizenship process in the United States can be complex and intimidating for people, it is something that many people do in order to be naturalized as a U.S. citizen. And with the help of an immigration attorney, it may be easier for people to successfully pursue and apply for citizenship. 

Source: The New York Times, "Making Choice to Halt at Door of Citizenship," Kirk Semple, Aug. 25, 2013

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