Colorado has more than 9,000 applications for U.S. citizenship waiting to be processed.

It's no wonder the process of becoming a U.S. citizen in Colorado can take up to 20 months. The Denver Field Office of U.S. Customs and Immigration Services(USCIS) has an average wait time of 10 months, with wait times ranging from 9.5 months to 20 months. By law, applications are supposed to be decided on within 120 days. That isn't happening.

Nationwide there is a backlog of 700,000 naturalization applications and the average wait time has jumped from just under six months to more than 10 months. The problem is worse is Colorado, where a survey by the American Immigration Lawyers Association found that about 45% of applicants at the Denver office were experiencing longer processing times than the published times.

One possible explanation offered by the Colorado State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is policy changes that increase background check requirements for military naturalizations.

There are six basic requirements for becoming a U.S. citizen.

* 5  years continuous residence in the U.S
* A physical presence for half of those five years
* Must be 18 years old
* Must have a basic understanding of U.S. History and government
* Good moral character
* Ability to read, write, and speak basic English

The committee is recommending the USCIS look at new policies and technologies that would streamline the process and at the same time maintain the standards for citizenship. It also recommends the USCIS be held accountable for the 120-day processing timeline. However, until changes and improvements are made in the process, becoming a U.S. citizen is going to be a long-drawn-out process in Colorado and across the nation.

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