By Allen Payton
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) San Francisco field office joined with the City of Pittsburg to present a special naturalization ceremony in the council chambers on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. At the event, 25 immigrants from 13 nations became U.S citizens. (See Zoom video – begins at 5-minute mark)
Nine the new U.S. citizens were from the Philippines, three from Mexico, two each from India and the United Kingdom, and one each from El Salvador, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Pakistan.
Four of the new citizens shared about themselves. Roya Yousefelahiyeh, of Concord, came here from Iran to study, and now works as a civil engineer in wastewater treatment.
Pittsburg resident Suku Varney from Liberia applied, as do millions of others, for the diversity visa. He was selected at random and got the golden opportunity to immigrate to the U.S. As a student at San Francisco State, he’s doing an internship in Superior Court, and hopes to go to law school.
Antioch resident Sergio Roque Henriquez came here from El Salvador at age 16, speaking no English.
“I had a goal, to go to school,” he said.
His cousins helped him get an exception and enter the local junior college’s English as a Second Language classes. Now, he’s married, dad of two, ages 16 and 11 and works as a chef.
Concord resident Liswana “Celilia” Judanu, formerly of Indonesia. She came here in 1978 to join her brothers after being rejected by the State Department for a visitor visa. Back home, Celilia had studied English, so she did well and wound up as a long-time employee of Wells Fargo, working now as a credit associate.
The keynote speaker was Pittsburg Mayor Merl Craft and opening remarks were presented by Councilwoman Shanelle Scales-Preston USCIS San Francisco District Chief of Staff Joseph Hamilton administered the Oath of Allegiance, and City of Pittsburg Assistant Director of Economic Development and Recreation Kolette Simonton sang the National Anthem.
“We are so proud to have hosted Pittsburg’s first-ever naturalization ceremony alongside USCIS,” said Melaine Venenciano of the Pittsburg Community Services Department.
“It was a wonderful event, and it went so smoothly,” said Joseph J. Hamilton, Chief of Staff, District 42, USCIS. “I have no doubt that our 25 newest citizens will forever have fond memories of their naturalization ceremony and the City of Pittsburg.”
USCIS naturalized approximately 625,000 people in fiscal year 2020. Many of them applied using USCIS online tools. More than seven million people have applied online for immigration benefits. To file online, individuals must first create a USCIS online account at USCIS naturalized approximately 625,000 people in fiscal year 2020. Many of them applied using USCIS online tools. More than seven million people have applied online for immigration benefits. To file online, individuals must first create a USCIS online account at https://myaccount.uscis.gov/.
USCIS encourages new U.S. citizens to share their naturalization photos on social media using the hashtag #NewUSCitizen.
Facts on Naturalization
Since our founding, the United States has welcomed immigrants from all over the world who have helped shape and define our country. During the last decade, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomed more than 7.3 million new citizens into the fabric of our nation. Despite extended office closures and the impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic, USCIS naturalized approximately 625,400 in fiscal year (FY) 2020.
Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is a personal decision and an important milestone in an immigrant’s life. Individuals who naturalize demonstrate a commitment to the principles that unify us as Americans and, in return, enjoy the rights and privileges that are fundamental to U.S. citizenship. We are committed to making the naturalization process more accessible to everyone who wants to start their citizenship journey.
About the Naturalization Process
People age 18 or older seeking to become U.S. citizens apply for naturalization by submitting Form N–400, Application for Naturalization. The N-400 application is available for online filing. An applicant must meet all the eligibility requirements in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to naturalize.
These general eligibility requirements specify that the applicant must:
- Be at least 18 years of age when they submit the N-400 application;
- Be a lawful permanent resident (have a Green Card) for at least five years;
- Demonstrate continuous residence in the United States for at least five years immediately before applying for naturalization;
- Have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months;
- Be a person of good moral character;
- Demonstrate an understanding of the English language including the ability to read, write, and speak basic English;
- Have knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics);
- Demonstrate attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution; and
- Be willing and able to take the Oath of Allegiance.
Special naturalization provisions modify these requirements for certain applicants or exempt them from one or more of these requirements. Among the applicants exempt from some of these requirements are spouses of U.S. citizens or members of the military.
- Individuals may apply for naturalization as the spouse of a U.S. citizen just three years after they receive a Green Card, instead of waiting five years. They must have been physically present in the United States for at least 18 months.
- Spouses of U.S. citizens stationed abroad may not have to meet any particular residence or physical presence requirements.
- Members of the military who served honorably during certain periods of conflict may be eligible for naturalization even if they do not have a Green Card and even if they are under the age of 18.
- Members of the military who served honorably for at least one year, at any time, and apply for naturalization within a certain time after their military service, are also exempt from the general residence and physical presence requirements.
Everyone filing an N-400 application who submits a complete application with all required documents will have an interview with a USCIS officer. Applicants we approve for naturalization are scheduled for a ceremony before a judge or with USCIS. They do not become U.S. citizens until they have taken the Oath of Allegiance.
- Since 2005, USCIS has welcomed approximately 730,000 citizens each year during naturalization ceremonies across the United States and around the world.
- In FY 2020, 70 percent of all naturalized citizens lived in 10 states: California, Florida, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois, Georgia and Virginia.
- In FY 2020, the leading metropolitan areas of residence were New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (10 percent), Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL (8 percent), and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (7 percent).
- In FY 2020, the top five countries of origin for naturalized citizens were: Mexico (82,700), India (47,900), Philippines (33,100), Cuba (31,000), and China (23,000). Since 2002, we have naturalized more than 139,000 members of the U.S. military, both at home and abroad. We have held naturalization ceremonies in more than 30 countries from Albania to the United Arab Emirates. In the last five years (FY 2016-20), we naturalized almost 30,000 service members. In FY 2020, we naturalized more than 4,500 service members, about the same number as the previous year.
- More than 40% of those we have naturalized since FY 2016 have been service members born in the Philippines, Mexico, China, South Korea and Jamaica—the top five countries of birth among citizens naturalized in that time span. Another 17% of military naturalizations from FY 2016-20 have been immigrants from the next five countries of birth: Nigeria, Nepal, India, Ghana and Kenya.
There are three U.S. immigration agencies within the Department of Homeland Security.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Following are the responsibilities of each agency:
- Adjudication of applications to gain immigrant status, based on family or work petitions, refugee or asylee status or through the Violence Against Women Act.
- Adjudication of naturalization applications
- Adjudication of asylum and refugee applications
- E-Verify employment verification
- Help with foreign adoptions
- Adjudication of work-related non-immigrant visas
- Adjudication of T and U visas (victim visas)
- Homeland Security Investigations
- Preventing Terrorism
- Illegal Movement of People and Goods
- Immigration Enforcement
- Fugitive Operations
- Detention and Removal Management
- Inspections involving customs law
- Inspections involving immigration law
- Border Patrol
- USDA-APHIS agricultural quarantine inspections program
Sharon Rummery, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services contributed to this report.