In the early 1900s, immigrants to the United States would often be greeted on their way toward Ellis Island by the towering Statue of Liberty: a sign of both the freedom of opportunity that awaited them in the United States.
Back then, immigration was a simpler process. People poured in by the millions, helping to shape the “melting pot” of cultural diversity we have in the modern U.S.
But can immigrants still pour into the U.S. like they used to, or have rules and regulations changed our country from the home of the free to the home of those lucky enough to have citizenship or a green card?
Unfortunately for many, the sad truth is that U.S. citizenship is not always easy to get. In fact, even finding legal, permanent residency can be difficult if you don’t have connections already living in the United States. Of course, the United States is still the world’s superpower, and as such it attracts a lot of immigration. There are still plenty of opportunities in the U.S. to work, live, and worship freely.
But if you want to immigrate to the U.S. in 2011, what kind of experience can you expect? Let’s dig a little deeper and find out.
Attaining Permanent Residency
Before an immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, they first have to live in the United States for many years. This is achieved through the acquisition of a green card, a card signifying its holder’s permission to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis.
Getting this green card is trickier than you might think. It can be relatively easy to obtain if an immigrant already has a family member or relative that’s a U.S. citizen; similarly, having an employer vouch for an immigrant so that they can work in the U.S. is advantageous. The simple truth, however, is that not everyone who wants to immigrate to the United States has these connections. Maybe their family still lives in a foreign country; maybe they don’t even speak English, making it difficult to find an American job.
There are still avenues through which immigrants can attain residency; however, these avenues just take time. First, a visa will have to be acquired, allowing someone to travel to the United States for an extended period of time and build a presence here. Upon obtaining a visa, they can request a change in status from having a visa to permanent residency.
The ultimate goal of many immigrants in the United States, of course, is to attain American citizenship. People who are born in the U.S., of course, are naturally citizens; the journey to citizenship will be much harder for foreign-born immigrants, to say the least.
First, someone who wants to be a citizen of the U.S. has to have been a resident for several years, with the specific number varying depending on the path to citizenship the immigrant has taken. Every day that is spent, during a legal residency of the United States, on the soil of another country will not count toward this time spent in the U.S.
Once these requirements have been met, you’ll have to fill out a form and application and send them in in order to be approved for naturalization tests. Understanding the English language and the workings of the American government are frequent themes on these tests, so immigrants need to brush up on American knowledge if they haven’t already. Some classes aimed at helping people pass this test can be taken.
Upon passing all tests for naturalization, immigrants are required to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, whereupon they finally receive their full citizenship and can then apply for a U.S. passport. All in all, this process can take nearly decades of time and, of course, patience.
After reviewing all of this information, the answer should be clear: no, the United States is not the easiest country in the world to immigrate to. But that doesn’t mean you can’t become a U.S. citizen with enough time and effort – and it certainly doesn’t mean many other countries are much more accepting of foreign immigration.
Ultimately, the person who can determine whether or not you will become a U.S. citizen is you. If you have the drive to fill out every form, pass every test, and live in the United States for a number of years, then you can and will eventually become a citizen.