According to many studies, most immigrants choose to become naturalized citizens because they wish to have the right to vote. However, naturalization also bring many other benefits. It allows citizens to be free from deportation and loss of residency. It allows citizens to run for office, claim benefits, sponsor family members, and travel more freely outside the US.
Studies and polls suggest that in addition to the right to vote, many immigrants choose to pursue citizenship because they want to belong in the US and want to enjoy economic benefits – such as the right to apply for jobs that are available only to citizens. Some immigrants report discrimination against noncitizens when it comes to the marketplace and some professional and government jobs do require citizenship.
According to a report by the Immigration Policy Institute, immigrants are correct about the benefits of citizenship. The report finds that naturalized citizens are less likely to be unemployed, more likely to earn more, and more likely to be in professional occupations when compared with noncitizen peers. The recent economic woes seem to have increased the economic gap between noncitizens and citizens even more. According to the Immigration Policy Institute report, the earning gaps between noncitizens and naturalized citizens jumped from 46% to 67% between 2006 and 2010. In that same time period, the median yearly earnings of naturalized citizens declined 5 percent, while earnings for US born citizens fell 8 percent and earnings dropped 19 percent for non-citizen immigrants.
According to the Immigration Policy Institute report, naturalized citizens have better language skills, more education, and better US work experience when compared with noncitizens. Even keeping these differences in mind, however, naturalized citizens have an earnings premium of 5% (higher even for women and Latino immigrants) when compared with noncitizens.
Although there are many social and economic benefits of citizenship, the Immigration Policy Institute report find that many qualified candidates do not apply for naturalization. According to the Immigration Policy Institute, about two fifths of the non-US born population in the US, or about 8 million immigrants, are eligible to apply for citizenship.
There are many reasons why immigrants choose not to seek citizenship. Immigrants from high-income countries, the Immigration Policy Institute reports, are less likely to naturalize. This may be because they see fewer benefits. Immigrants who have good English skills, a long-term US residency, and higher education are more likely to seek citizenship, as are immigrants from politically unstable countries and refugees. Some experts also feel that the US has not promoted citizenship as much as Canada and Australia, which have higher rates of naturalization among immigrant populations.