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More Caribbean Nationals Becoming U.S. Citizens

CaribWorldNews, News Report, Staff Posted: Apr 01, 2009

WASHINGTON -- More Caribbean migrants became naturalized citizens of the U.S. in the past year, a CWNN analysis of latest figures from the Department of Homeland Security shows.

Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is conferred upon foreign citizens or nationals after fulfilling the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act. After naturalization, foreign-born citizens enjoy nearly all the same benefits, rights and responsibilities that the Constitution gives to native-born U.S. citizens, including the right to vote.

To be naturalized, an applicant must be at least 18 years of age; have been granted lawful permanent residence in the United States (be a legal permanent resident or LPR); and have resided in the country continuously for at least 5 years. Additional requirements include the ability to speak, read and write the English language; knowledge of the U.S. government and history; and good moral character.

Last year alone, 131,935 first generation Caribbean migrants took the U.S. citizenship oath compared to just 68,577 in 2007 and 90,979 in 2006.

The majority were from the Spanish speaking Caribbean with Cuba topping the count at 39,871. They were followed by nationals from the Dominican Republic at 35,251.

Jamaica was the lone English-speaking Caribbean nation to rank among the nations with the highest number of naturalizations. For the entire Caribbean region, they ranked third with 21,243 naturalizations in 2008 compared to a mere 12,314 in 2007.

A lot more Haitians also became citizens in 2008. Some 21,229 Haitian migrants took the citizenship oath last year compared to 11,552 in 2007.

Other Caribbean countries did not see as dramatic an increase. Guyana has 8,290 naturalizations in 2008 compared to 5,631 in 2007 while for Trinidad and Tobago there were 7,305 last year compared to 4,514 the previous year.

For Barbados, there were 1,203 new U.S. citizens last year while for the Bahamas there were 838 naturalizations and 850 for Grenada. For Dominica there were 975 and for Antigua there were 661.

St. Kitts, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines had 529, 779 and 623, respectively. For Anguilla, there were 47 compared to 55 for Aruba and 75 for Bermuda. Sixty seven were from the British Virgin Islands while 24 were from the Cayman Islands. Eighty-seven new U.S. citizens came from Montserrat last year while 21 were from Martinique and 39 from Guadeloupe.
Caricom nations Suriname and Belize had 202 and 1,291, respectively.

The Caribbean trend was reflected nationally with U.S. officials saying the number of persons naturalized in the United States increased 58 percent from 660,477 in 2007 to an all-time record of 1,046,539 in 2008.

The average annual number of persons naturalizing increased from less than 120,000 during the 1950s and 1960s to 210,000 during the 1980s; 500,000 during the 1990s and 680,000 during 2000 to 2008.

Seventy-seven percent of all persons naturalizing in 2008 resided in 10 states. California was home to the largest percentage of persons naturalizing (29 percent), followed by Florida (12 percent) and New York (8.7 percent).

Among metropolitan areas seeing the largest increase were Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria. In 2008, females accounted for 56 percent of all persons naturalizing while more than one-half (53 percent) of new citizens were ages 25 to 44 years. The median age of all persons naturalizing was 40 years.

Many of the applications, especially those received during the latter part of 2007, were processed during 2008. Naturalization applications pending a decision, however, decreased from 1,130,000 at the end of 2007 to 480,000 by the end of 2008. The number of applications filed for naturalization also declined to 525,000 in 2008.

Related Articles:

Naturalizations and Deportations Both Hit Record High

Increase in Latino Citizens in Calif. Could Impact Politics

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