US CITIZENSHIP IN NEW MEXICO
What Does US Citizenship Look Like In New Mexico?
Applications submitted for US citizenship are on the rise in New Mexico. Of the 211,259 immigrants living in the state in 2013, about 72,651 (34%) are naturalized citizens of the U.S. These new Americans and their children account for almost 6% of the state’s registered voters. In June 2016, new data from USCIS showed that in the second quarter of 2016 alone (April to June), USCIS received 673 citizenship applications from New Mexico. This is a 25% increase from this same period last year.
The New Mexico Immigrant Law Center’s mission is to
advance equity and justice by empowering low-income immigrants through collaborative legal services, advocacy and education. In accordance with this mission, we are seeking to expand our services around citizenship in order to do our part in helping amplify the voice of the immigrant community in this crucial time. To learn more, keep reading.
What is Behind this Increase? What Are the Advantages of Becoming a Citizen Instead of Renewing Permanent Residency?
Many who are eligible for citizenship have yet to apply and instead continue to live as lawful permanent residents (LPR). The process to become a U.S. citizen (called naturalization in immigration law) can seem daunting and complex, and many lawful permanent residents have been able to work, keep their families united, and live a perfectly full life as residents. There are, however, certain benefits to citizenship that are not available under any other immigration status, and which can have a great impact on the quality of life for immigrants. Listed below are some of the most prominent benefits to citizenship:
- Voting: US citizens become eligible to register to vote and to use their voices to influence the outcome of all elections on a local, state, and federal level.
- Bringing family members to the US: Citizens of the US can petition to USCIS to bring family members legally into the U.S., and their petitions take priority and are accepted more easily than are the petitions of LPRs.
- Eliminating renewal costs: Citizenship does not have to be renewed, and thus will save the time and money it takes to renew a green card every 10 years.
- Obtaining citizenship for foreign born children: If granted US citizenship, a parent can fill out a form to obtain citizenship for their foreign-born children, as long as the children are unmarried and under 18 years old.
- Public Benefits: A US citizen receives more open access than an LPR to the benefits funded by the taxes he or she pays (lower premiums for medicare, for example).
- Dual Citizenship: Many countries allow for dual citizenship with the U.S., so changing from LPR to citizen does not necessarily mean having to give up citizenship within one’s country of origin.
- Eligibility for federal jobs: Citizenship within the US opens doors for certain career paths that are often closed to LPRs.
- Ease of travel in and out of the country with US passport: As a US citizen, the travel limitations that restrict LPRs no longer apply.
What Does the Pathway to Citizenship Look Like?
Here are the steps necessary to obtain U.S.citizenship:
- Applicant must be 18 years or older to apply (Children under 18 and unmarried can be automatically granted citizenship if it is granted to a parent)
- Applicant must have been a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 5 years (3 years if you qualify as a spouse of a U.S. citizen)
- Applicant must be able to prove continued permanent residency and continuous presence in the US for the five years (3 if spouse of U.S. citizen) leading up to the time you apply. And must be able to provide testimony of “good moral character”
- Applicant must have lived in current state of residence for at least three months
- Applicant must complete and submit to USCIS the N-400 Application Form
- Applicant must pass a test on basic English reading/writing/speaking (exceptions apply)
- Applicant must pass a test on basic US civics and government (exceptions apply)
- Applicant must take an Oath of Allegiance to the US.
So Where Do I Start?
The New Mexico Immigrant Law Center is co-sponsoring a citizenship fair.
Saturday, March 4th, 2017
ACE Leadership High School
1240 Bellamah Ave NW, Albuquerque, NM, 87104
To attend this fair, there are two options
Pre-Register by calling today! (505) 247-1023
Those who pre-register will be able to:
- Speak to an immigration attorney
- Fill out entire application – and have it ready to send
- Go through a mock interview
- Check eligibility for a waiver of the $680 immigration fee
Walk-in on the day!
Attend the fair without pre-registering to:
- Speak to a supervised volunteer to check eligible for the fair
- Learn about rights as a worker and as an immigrant
- Find out about resources to learn English, get help with other immigration issues, and more!
- To ensure the opportunity to prepare entire application, please call (505) 247-1023 to pre-register!
How Exactly Will this Fair Work?
What do I do when I get there?
At the fair, attendees will be guided through a series of stations where they will meet individually with supervised volunteers and immigration attorneys in order to complete their citizenship applications in a step by step process. They will also have access to community partner representatives who will provide resources on how to prepare for the following phases of the citizenship process including where to enroll in English classes, how to prepare for an interview with immigration, and more.
Who Will Be Helping Me?
Meet some of the NMILC team who will be assisting at the fair.
Role at the Fair: Chief Logistics and Volunteer Coordinator.
What Does Citizenship Mean to You?: While naturalization is a deeply personal decision with many potential individual benefits, it also helps amplify the immigrant vote and political voice.
Role at the Fair: Logistics and Volunteer Co-Coordinator
What Does Citizenship Mean to You?: Citizenship is important because voting is power! Our country’s voting block should accurately represent the people living in our country so that our government cannot ignore any group’s needs.
Role at the Fair: Media Coordinator and Forms Prep Captain, in charge of the forms prep area to assure that everything is flowing in this area by providing support to form preparers.
What Does Citizenship Mean to You? Helping in the citizenship fair is meaningful to me as I can empower my community by helping bring certainty to the immigrant community of not being deported and by also helping the community gain a voice through voting rights in the local and federal elections.
Role at the Fair: Refugee Community Outreach Coordinator and Fair Logistics Co-Coordinator
What Does Citizenship Mean to You?: I think it’s vital to give people opportunities to seek legal assistance and make immigration law more accessible to immigrant communities. Applying for citizenship can be a confusing and expensive process, and volunteers play a vital role in helping people achieve the benefits and security that citizenship brings.
Role at the Fair: Role: Immigration Attorney
What Does Citizenship Mean to You?: Citizenship, to me, is more than just a legal status. It’s about finding ways to amplify our collective voice, as an immigrant community, and to make our local, state and national laws and politicians accountable to our needs and wants. We need everyone–including U.S. Citizens, legal permanent residents, and mixed status families–to get involved to make our society more inclusive.
Role at the Fair: Forms Preparer and Logistics Co-Coordinator
What Does Citizenship Mean to You?: To me, citizenship represents a critical step in breaking down the legal barriers that prevent immigrant families from accessing the full scope of the benefits they should be receiving from the society to which they significantly contribute. Additionally, the more immigrant families who reach citizenship status, the stronger and more proportionate to the population will be the voice of our immigrant communities, as they continue seeking appropriate representation in culture and politics.
- Click here to view study materials for the English and Civics tests from the USCIS website. Available in several languages.
- Click here to view and/or download the N-400 Citizenship application from the USCIS website. It can be helpful to familiarize yourself with it before attempting to fill it out. Click here to view it in Spanish.
- ENCUENTRO is a nonprofit based in Albuquerque, NM that engages Latino immigrant families in building skills for economic and social justice. Encuentro offers citizenship exam preparation classes, English courses, as well as other courses. Visit Encuentro’s website here for more information.