After a sharp increase in naturalizations of Mexican legal permanent residents in the late 1990s (Passel, 2007), the Mexican naturalization rate has flattened.
In 2011, Mexicans still had a comparatively lower rate of naturalization at 36% than the 61% for all immigrants and 68% for all non-Mexican immigrants (see Appendix A).
Compared with other immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean, Mexicans also have the lowest rate of naturalization—36% versus 61% in 2011 (see Appendix A).
There are several possible explanations for these differences. Most importantly, Mexican immigrants are more likely than others to maintain close ties to their home country because of the geographic proximity of Mexico to the U.S.
Another possible reason is that not all Mexican immigrants are aware that they can hold both U.S. and Mexican citizenship at the same time. Until 1998 Mexico did not allow its citizens to hold dual citizenship. The change in policy by the Mexican government is one reason the rate of naturalization of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. rose so dramatically in the late 1990s, from 20% in 1995 to 34% in 2001.
The Pew Hispanic survey asked all foreign-born Latinos whether or not their country of origin allowed them to hold citizenship from another country. Among Mexican immigrants, 71% correctly responded that Mexico allows its citizens to hold dual citizenship. But 18% said that Mexico does not allow dual citizenship and an additional 11% said they don’t know. Among non-Mexican Latino immigrants, 62% said their country of origin allows them to hold two citizenships, while 24% said it does not and 14% said they don’t know.
Other possible deterrents for the naturalization of Mexican immigrants are the cost of the naturalization process and the difficulty of the English and civics test. In July 2007, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services nearly doubled the fee for naturalization processing to $595 and added an $85 biometric fee.
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