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Ad campaign promotes US immigration process

Posted on July 8, 2011
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More than 70,000 green cards issued to Chinese immigrants last year

NEW YORK – The US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has launched its first ever paid ad campaign urging roughly 7.9 million green card holders to become naturalized citizens.

The $3.5 million multilingual campaign will be used for three years and is part of an $11 million allotment from Congress meant to promote integration of immigrants.

This year’s campaign in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese will run in print, radio and digital formats between May 30 and Sept 5, primarily in states with large immigrant populations, such as California, New York, Florida and Texas.

“You’ve got to create that sense of urgency, and until they’ve reached that sense of urgency, they’ll just coast,” Nathan Stiefel, division chief of policy and programs for the Office of Citizenship at USCIS, told the Associated Press.

Patrick Klauss, a partner with Berd & Klauss PLLC, a New York-based immigration law firm, said the campaign could mean “there is simply not enough information out there for people who may clearly be eligible to naturalize”.

“The cynical answer, while it is hard to speculate on other motivations of USCIS, is filing fees for a naturalization application could also be a factor,” Klauss said. It costs $680 to file the paperwork. Klauss said he hasn’t seen an obvious increase in naturalization applications since the launch of the campaign.

More than 70,000 Chinese applicants obtained US green cards last year, the second-highest nationality, according to the US Department of Homeland Security.

Of the more than 1 million US green cards issued in 2010, Chinese applicants accounted for 6.8 percent of them, following Mexican applicants with 13.3 percent.

The US is home to about 1.6 million Chinese immigrants, making them the fourth-largest immigrant community, after Mexican, Filipino and Indian immigrants, according to The Migration Policy Institute, a think tank in Washington.

There are about 7.9 million people eligible for citizenship, according to the US Department of Homeland Security.

Among other requirements, green card holders living in the US for five years, showing good moral character and passing English and civics tests, are eligible to apply for naturalization.

Some Chinese green card holders, however, haven’t considered becoming US citizens.

Liu Zhao, 36, an information technology developer in Detroit, moved to the US 10 years ago. She received her green card in 2008 through employment after waiting for nearly six years.

“I don’t feel the need to become a US citizen. It’s convenient enough to have a green card. (If I became a US citizen) I wouldn’t like applying for a visa to go visit China,” she explained.

One detracting factor to becoming a US citizen for Chinese immigrants is that China doesn’t allow dual citizenship, and they must decide if they want to give up their Chinese citizenship.

“This is often a psychological hurdle where one still considers himself a national of that country and does not want to lose this identity,” Klauss said. “Another factor could be tax implications. A US citizen is subject to US taxes regardless if they move abroad one day and never return to the US,” he added.

06 July 2011    Zhang Vuwei

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