BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in 2021, approximately 855,000 immigrants became American citizens. 

Many of these individuals arrived in the states after escaping unfavorable conditions in another country, some even fleeing war torn homelands or situations involving abuse or persecution. 

One woman who shared her story of immigration with Justice for Immigrants says she came to the United States from San Pedro Sula, Honduras as a survivor of human trafficking. 

She said, “I had to leave my home for many reasons, including abuse from family and strangers as a child…When I was trafficked, I not only had emotional injuries but physical ones too.”  

Now that she’s in the U.S. she says, “My biggest dream is to be completely healthy so I can begin to live my life fully, work and be independent.  I want to graduate from nursing school to give back just a little of all that life has given me.”

Many who overcome life-threatening hurdles to make their way into the U.S. have similar dreams. 

But the process of becoming an American citizen is intense. 

The International Rescue Committee says, “the U.S. immigration system can be extremely difficult to navigate and the application process to become a citizen alone can take a year or longer. Generally speaking, people applying for citizenship must successfully pass six stages or steps.”

So, what exactly are the steps an immigrant is expected to complete to become a U.S. citizen? 

According to USA.gov, every year, about a million people receive Green Cards designating them as new permanent U.S. residents.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says the steps one must take to apply for a Green Card vary depending on one’s individual situation. 

That said, the general application process for most applicants is as follows:

  • Someone usually must file an immigrant petition for the individual (often referred to as sponsoring or petitioning for them). In some cases, immigrants may be eligible to file for themselves.
  • After USCIS approves the immigrant petition, and there is a visa available in their category, they file either a Green Card application with USCIS or a visa application with the U.S. Department of State.
  • They next must go to a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photos, and a signature.
  • After this, they attend an interview.
  • Finally, the immigrant receives a decision on your application.

Once the Green Card application is pending with USCIS, applicants are encouraged to visit an information page called ‘While Your Green Card Application Is Pending With USCIS’ for advice about how to check the status of their case. 

Though the process is complex, every year thousands of immigrants become citizens.

The woman mentioned at the outset of this article was able to navigate the system with success thanks to the help of charitable organizations. 

She said, “I am very glad there are organizations like Catholic Charities of Houston who care about those most in need… I am grateful to every person in my life that has helped to make it happier.”