Thousands of immigrants have already been impacted by the postponement of naturalization ceremonies across the United States due to the current pandemic. In March, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which administers immigration benefits, closed its offices to the public.
The USCIS plans to reschedule citizenship ceremonies as well as interviews. But uncertainty remains while people in most states remain under stay-at-home orders and strict social distancing guidelines outlined by medical experts.
Naturalization ceremonies typically involve large groups
The Migration Policy Institute says the USCIS naturalizes nearly 66,000 immigrants each month, and the agency utilizes in-person oaths at its offices or holds larger ceremonies outside of its facilities. Many of these events include more than 1,000 immigrants waiting to become citizens.
Tens of thousands of soon-to-be Americans have already seen their ceremonies delayed, and immigration advocates say that number could soon exceed 100,000. Critics say the postponements will only make the already backlogged system worse, as 600,000 naturalization applications were pending as of last September.
Ceremonies and interviews will be rescheduled
The USCIS says field offices will send notices to applicants with naturalization ceremony appointments or scheduled interviews containing instructions for when those appointments will be rescheduled. Some ceremonies planned for late May have not yet been canceled.
If the delays continue for several months, experts warn that the number of eligible voters in the November election could be greatly impacted, because many states require voters to be registered by October. Some worry the Trump administration will take advantage of these delays in light of other restrictive immigration policies already in place.