Shorter Wait Proposed for Some Immigrants

WASHINGTON – Legal immigrants fluent in English could become U.S.
citizens in four years rather than five under a proposal that could
become part of a broad immigration bill.

The proposal by Sen. Lamar Alexander (news, bio, voting record),
R-Tenn., was at the top of the agenda as the Senate began a second week
of debate Monday on tightening U.S. borders against illegal immigrants,
increasing penalties on employers who hire them and on whether to let
more than 11 million undocumented aliens stay or make them leave at
some point.

An estimated 7.2 million legal permanent residents have lived in the
United States long enough to become Americans, according to the

Homeland Security
Department’s Citizenship and Immigration Services office. The wait to
become an American is five years, three years if the legal permanent
resident marries a U.S. citizen.

Reasons that officials give for permanent residents not seeking
citizenship include not speaking English well enough, an inability to
pay the fee and not wanting to forfeit citizenship in their native
country.

Alexander says a shorter naturalization wait might motivate more green card holders to seek U.S. citizenship.

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