Virtual naturalization ceremonies amid the COVID-19 crisis are not feasible as thousands of applications remain pending, a spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said Wednesday.
Rescheduling naturalization ceremonies is a “top priority as we enter our phased reopening” but virtual ceremonies present “logistical challenges” and security concerns, the spokesman told The New York Times. Limited ceremonies took place last month with the necessary safety measures, the paper noted.
Before COVID-19, roughly 63,000 applicants became citizens every month, the Times reports. As social distancing measures were implemented across the country, USCIS policies to ensure safety halted all in-person ceremonies, preventing applicants from achieving full citizenship.
With the general election only months away, the backlog of potential voters could likely affect election outcomes in key battleground states like Pennsylvania and Florida, especially as naturalized citizens make up an increasing portion of the electorate.
The statement from USCIS came after President Donald Trump reportedly considered suspending the issuing of foreign work visas as the pandemic draws on. (RELATED: DHS Suspends Increase In Guest Worker Visas After Tucker Carlson’s Segment)
The steep drop in applications for citizenship during COVID-19 has nearly bankrupted the agency according to the Times. As a result they requested $1.2 billion from Congress to remain operational.