Why are immigrants Rejecting US Passports?

08 January 2015 |

The United States has long been considered as one of the best places for immigrants. After all, the nation has been built almost entirely on the back of immigration and America has always been one of the most welcoming places. There are even national monuments like the Statue of Liberty dedicated to the prospect of receiving immigrants. Yet, recent trends are turning this on its head, with many newly arrived immigrants NOT looking to become actual citizens, opting to reject US passports for a number of reasons. A closer look inside these trends reveals some very interesting attitudes, showcasing the changing face of US immigration.

immigration sign

Huge Numbers Of Immigrants Eligible: Believe it or not, there were more than 8.5 million immigrants living in the United States who were eligible for citizenship as of 2012. Amazingly enough, the Department of Homeland Security reports that only about 800,000 actually did decide to take advantage of this benefit. Of course, over time many more immigrants will eventually decide to become citizens, although there will also be a lot of people uninterested obtaining a new US passport.

In 2012, there were an estimated 40.8 million immigrants in the United States, representing approximately 13 percent of the total population of the country. By country of origin, nearly 28 percent of the immigrant population came from Mexico, with India having the second largest number. This was followed by China, the Philippines (each accounted for about five percent of the total immigrant population). El Salvador, Vietnam, Cuba, and Korea each represented approximately three percent; the Dominican Republic and Guatemala round out the top ten, with about two percent each. It is also worth noting that 46 percent of the total immigrant population of the US identifies themselves as Hispanic in origin.

An Expensive, Time Consuming Process: A large number of immigrants, especially those who have decided to reject the path of citizenship cite the long process of becoming a citizen and the expenses involved. While it certainly does require between five and seven years to become a naturalized US citizen, many immigrants have already been living in the country for this long or longer.

Expense is another legitimate concern. The cost typically associated with this process is $680 which can be an issue for many lower income immigrants. Despite some eligibility for fee waivers, those with a family would be facing a rather expense they might not be able to afford.

Language & History Issues: In order to become a US citizen, an immigrant will be required to pass an English proficiency test. While there are a few exceptions (such as being over the age of 50), this is a pretty hard and fast requirement. Immigrants applying for citizenship will also be required to show at least a basic knowledge of US history, for which most will have to spend some time studying.

Want To Keep Current Benefits: Although the United States is often regarded as having one of the most generous government benefit programs, many immigrants would rather keep their current benefits and freedom. Many see the potential loss of being able to travel and work freely across Europe or parts of South America as not worth giving up, especially for those immigrants who cite the desire to ultimately return to their ‘home’ country.

No Real Need for Citizenship: Many immigrants just don’t feel like they need to have US citizenship. In the past, US immigration laws made it much more advantageous to obtain citizenship. Today, the Obama administration has embraced a policy of simply deciding not to enforce many of these long standing laws. Additionally, this administration has also significantly reduced the number of deportations, leading many immigrants to feel like pursuing citizenship is no longer necessary.

US Tax Laws: Make no mistake about it, the US has some of the most restrictive tax laws in the entire world. As a citizen, you will be taxed on all of your worldwide income, no matter where that income was made or from what source, or where you choose to reside. This is very different than most other countries. Even those nations who do impose a tax on worldwide income will only collect this while you reside within their borders.

On top of this, the burden of learning which forms to file and which foreign (and domestic) assets to declare and when everything must be filed is a bit obtrusive. In many cases, even the failure to file a single form, or complete that tax form in the proper fashion can result in potential criminal penalties. Instead, many immigrants have decided these onerous rules and requirements do not outweigh the benefits to be gained from citizenship.

Implications of US Citizenship: There are also a number of implications to obtaining US citizenship. For example, it could also entail the obligation of military service for men of appropriate age, should the country determine this is needed. When some immigrants accept citizenship in a foreign country (like the US), they would have to automatically give up being a citizen in their home nation, and this can be a very uncomfortable trade-off. There is also jury duty, which US citizens have to make time for.

Bottom Line: The new immigrants to the United States are coming for a variety of reasons and many are no longer interested in simply becoming an American. To this end, they have made a conscious decision to simply live as they always have and to do so without obtaining a US passport. This is certainly a decision that many native-born Americans will immediately understand, but the above reasons do shed some light as to why this decision is being made by more and more immigrants today.

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