Citizenship Applications: Third Quarter Continues to Show Decline
Further to my earlier analysis of the half-year numbers showing a dramatic decline (The impact of citizenship fees on naturalization – Policy Options), the third quarter numbers issued this week confirm the overall trend: only some 56,000 applications were received, compared to 112,000 for the same period in 2015, just about half.
This quarter is the first quarter one year after minimum residency requirements were changed to four years from three and so one might have expected some increase. Indeed, the July-September numbers show an increase for the quarter from 12,000 in 2015 to 20,000 in 2016. But this does not change the overall picture: the total number of applications this year is likely to be around 75,000 compared to 130,000 in 2015, a drop of over 40 percent.
Nor does it change my overall argument that the likely major factor responsible for this decline was the steep increase in adult citizenship processing fees in 2015 to $530.
Of course, the one bright spot in this decline is that the backlog has been reduced: the current inventory is just over 55,000 compared to about 250,000 at the beginning of 2015. Processing time has also declined, from 21 months for the same period in 2015 to 16 months currently.
The most recent approval rate is 91 percent, slightly down from 93 percent.
But reducing the backlog and reducing processing times by reducing demand for citizenship through higher fees and other barriers runs against the government’s overall diversity and inclusion agenda.