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US senate approves shortening citizenship wait

Legal immigrants fluent in English could become US citizens in 4 years rather than the current 5 years.

This proposal by Senator Lamar Alexander was agreed to by the US Senate April 3. The Senate passed the proposed bill 91 votes in favour to one vote against.

According to the Homeland Security Department and Immigration Service an estimated 7.2 million legal permanent residence have lived long enough in the US to qualify for citizenship.

Included in the bill was another proposal. If a permanent resident marries a US citizen the waiting period for citizenship has also been reduced from 5 years to 3 years.

The senator now hopes that a shorter naturalisation period will motivate more green card holders becoming citizens of the US.

Along with the current debate concerning illegal immigration in the senate, we needed to address the indispensable step of helping prospective citizens becoming Americans, said Alexander.

The legislation that was passed by the senate will provide US$500 in vouchers to immigrants to pay for English courses. Grants will be issued to groups that provide classes in US history and civics.

Homeland Department and Immigration Service officials feel legal immigrants need to be encouraged to seek citizenship, as many do not speak good English and can not afford the fee.

The bill now needs to be passed by US Congress later this month for it to become official US legislature.

For more information on how to immigrate to the US, click here.