News / USA

US Issues 1 Million Green Cards, Naturalizes 757,000 in 2012

Zoltan Sznorfi, left, originally from Hungary, Benjamin Njoku, center, originally from Nigeria, and Keyan Chen, right, originally from China wait for the naturalization ceremony at historic Federal Hall to start, Friday, March 22, 2013 in New York.
Zoltan Sznorfi, left, originally from Hungary, Benjamin Njoku, center, originally from Nigeria, and Keyan Chen, right, originally from China wait for the naturalization ceremony at historic Federal Hall to start, Friday, March 22, 2013 in New York.
Nearly a million people became U.S. citizens last year, and just over a million became legal permanent residents, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The data shows the numbers of new “green card” holders and naturalizations, the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, have been fairly steady over the past few years, with a modest bump in naturalizations last year.

DHS: U.S. Naturalizations 1907-2012DHS: U.S. Naturalizations 1907-2012
DHS: U.S. Naturalizations 1907-2012
DHS: U.S. Naturalizations 1907-2012
Claire Bergeron, a researcher with the Migration Policy Institute, attributes that increase to the 2012 presidential election.

“There were a lot of outreach efforts leading up to the presidential election to get people to naturalize. A lot of the big ones we saw this year were Latino organizations,” she said. 

Latino voters, including many new citizens, helped secure President Barack Obama’s re-election and increased the power of his Democratic Party in Congress.

A total of 757,434 people naturalized in 2012, up from 694,193 the year before. The majority of new citizens were born in Mexico, the Philippines, India, the Dominican Republic and China, according to the data released Friday.

Naturalizations increased the most among people born in the Dominican Republic and Cuba between 2011 and 2012.

Vietnam, South Korea, Pakistan, Iran, Nigeria and Somalia were among the top 20 countries of origin.

Immigration policy experts say the 2012 data is fairly unremarkable, except that it may be a point of reference as immigration trends change in future years if Congress passes immigration reform.

Growing numbers of lawmakers are calling for a path to citizenship for the estimated 11.5 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. But what type of path, and how long it would take is the subject of intense debate, with new pitches flying through Washington each week.

Last year, the U.S. granted “green cards” to 1,031,631 foreigners. That lets them live and work permanently anywhere in the U.S. and opens the door to citizenship within five years.

Mexico, China and India were the leading countries of birth of America’s newest legal permanent residents. People born in Iraq, Burma, Bangladesh and Ethiopia were among the top 20.

The majority of the green card holders already lived in the U.S. when their status changed. Nearly 66 percent were granted permanent resident status based on a family relationship with a U.S. citizen or another green card holder.

The system to determine who gets a green card is a complicated process, with preference going to family members and foreigners with needed job skills or who came from countries not well represented in the U.S.

Some immigration reformers are suggesting a new green card category be created for the undocumented immigrants in the U.S., while others object to what they consider to be an “amnesty” for people who broke the law.

Erwin DeLeon, an immigration specialist with the Washington-based research group the Urban Institute, says he expects new data trends will emerge in about a decade because of the work Congress is doing now.

If Congress passes immigration reform this year or next, he says, “by 2020 you’ll see a big spike” in permanent residents and new citizens.

Bergeron isn’t so sure about the timing, however, since some proposals are suggesting unauthorized immigrants would have to wait as long as 10 years to become legal, with an additional five-year wait to naturalize.

Persons Naturalized by Region and Country of Birth: Fiscal Years 2010 to 2012:

  2012 2011 2010
  Num. % Num. % Num. %
REGION Total 757,434 100 694,193 100 619,913 100
Africa 74,775 9.9 69,738 10 64,022 10.3
Asia 257,035 33.9 249,940 36 251,598 40.6
Europe 82,714 10.9 82,209 11.8 78,011 12.6
North America 261,673 34.5 217,750 31.4 163,836 26.4
Caribbean 109,762 14.5 79,820 11.5 62,483 10.1
Central America 40,592 5.4 33,784 4.9 25,706 4.1
Other North America 111,319 14.7 104,146 15 75,647 12.2
Oceania 3,886 0.5 3,734 0.5 3,646 0.6
South America 76,992 10.2 70,485 10.2 58,474 9.4
Unknown 359 337 326 0.1
COUNTRY Total 757,434 100 694,193 100 619,913 100
Mexico 102,181 13.5 94,783 13.7 67,062 10.8
Philippines 44,958 5.9 42,520 6.1 35,465 5.7
India 42,928 5.7 45,985 6.6 61,142 9.9
Dominican Republic 33,351 4.4 20,508 3 15,451 2.5
China, People's Republic 31,868 4.2 32,864 4.7 33,969 5.5
Cuba 31,244 4.1 21,071 3 14,050 2.3
Colombia 23,972 3.2 22,693 3.3 18,417 3
Vietnam 23,490 3.1 20,922 3 19,313 3.1
Haiti 19,114 2.5 14,191 2 12,291 2
El Salvador 16,685 2.2 13,834 2 10,343 1.7
Jamaica 15,531 2.1 14,591 2.1 12,070 1.9
Korea, South 13,790 1.8 12,664 1.8 11,170 1.8
Peru 11,814 1.6 10,266 1.5 8,551 1.4
Pakistan 11,150 1.5 10,655 1.5 11,601 1.9
Brazil 9,884 1.3 10,251 1.5 8,867 1.4
Iran 9,627 1.3 9,286 1.3 9,337 1.5
Ukraine 9,459 1.2 8,489 1.2 7,345 1.2
Nigeria 9,322 1.2 9,344 1.3 9,126 1.5
Somalia 9,286 1.2 7,971 1.1 5,728 0.9
United Kingdom 9,145 1.2 9,246 1.3 8,401 1.4
All other countries 278,635 36.8 262,059 37.8 240,214 38.7

Figure rounds to 0.0. Countries ranked by 2012 persons naturalized. Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, N-400 naturalization data for persons aged 18 and over, Fiscal Years 2010 to 2012.

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Comment Sorting
by: SALEH from: YEMEN
March 25, 2013 10:09 AM
I proud to be an AMERICAN citizen , I believe in the CONSTITUTION and LIBERTY .

by: Ona Hagreen from: Wisconsin
March 24, 2013 2:14 PM
I have a friend in Chicago,who would like a green card,workes as a caregiver,pays taxes,has a SSI card and is very proud to be here,what would she do next.................

by: saleh awdaly from: yemen
March 24, 2013 10:56 AM
Really , in fact I never seen thing clever as than as the U.S. immigration DEPARTMENTS , the DHS , and USCIS , they are PERFECTLY , working , they are SO sensitive , flexible , know , how they choice the fit immigrants to build the STRONG INFRASTRUCTURE OF THE U.S.A ., they provide us with resources , and customers services , in summary they deal with us gently .

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