Could you be eligible for US citizenship?
#WhyCitizenship campaign urges 30,000 Irish to apply as immigration uncertainty continues
A national campaign is running in the US this week, urging eligible Irish immigrants to apply for citizenship. Photograph: Getty Images
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A campaign to encourage Irish people with legal permanent residency to apply for citizenship is running across the United States this week, as uncertainty continues over immigration policy changes under US president Donald Trump.
The Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers (CIIC) estimates that there are more than 30,000 Irish people resident in the US who are eligible to apply for citizenship, yet just over 4,000 individuals applied for naturalisation between 2013 and 2015.
The national campaign, #WhyCitizenship, aims to highlight the benefits of holding citizenship of the US, and to explain the process involved through a series of regional information events being held in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Quincy, San Diego and San Francisco. A social media campaign is running concurrently.
“The benefits of becoming a US citizen greatly outweigh any doubts about the process a person might have. Freedom of travel, increased access to benefits, no fear of deportation and the right to vote are only a few of the benefits that answer the question #WhyCitizenship,” says Celine Kennelly, CIIC board president.
Among the additional advantages of holding US citizenship, according to the CIIC, are the right to live in another country without restriction; access to social security and student aid; the possibility of petitioning for family members to go to the US, and the right to run for public office.
According to reports this week, US Army recruiters have been told to stop enlisting Green Card holders, a move that highlights another way in which citizenship confers more rights to individuals. The directive countermands previous policy which was that Green Card holders could be admitted to the US Army once a background check had been completed.
“It is always recommended that those eligible for US citizenship apply as soon as they are eligible. The current climate of uncertainty in the US, with regard to immigration policy, gives even more reason for those who are eligible to apply for citizenship to consider doing so,” Kennelly says.
Cost of applying
The cost of applying for US citizenship is $725 (€615), and a waiver is available to eligible applicants who cannot otherwise afford it. CIIC advises that professional advice is taken before submitting the application.
“We recommend that individuals have their forms reviewed by an immigration expert before submission. Very often people interpret questions incorrectly and therefore answer them incorrectly and that can create problems and cause delays. The (Irish) Immigration Centers across the country provide low cost or free application assistance which includes having your application reviewed by an accredited staff member and/or an immigration attorney,” Kennelly says.
Submission of application is followed by a naturalisation interview, which is part of the English comprehension test, along with request to read and write a sentence in English, and a history and civics examination.
“The final step is the Naturalization Oath Ceremony, at which you take the Oath of Allegiance and become a US citizen,” Kennelly says. “The oath is administered by US Citizenship and Immigration Services at an administrative ceremony, or by a judge in a judicial ceremony. After taking the Oath of Allegiance, you hand in your green card and receive your Certificate of Naturalization.”
Ireland permits dual citizenship, which allows individuals to carry both US and Irish passports. CIIC branches throughout the US have information available to interested people, and further details about the campaign can be viewed here. Contact details for the regional immigration centres can be found on ciic-usa.org.