CLEVELAND — Cleveland ranks as the number one city in America when it comes to becoming a U.S. citizen, featuring the country’s shortest wait time for processing, highest backlog clearance rate, and the most efficient field office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to a new study.
Boundless Immigration, a technology company based in Seattle that helps families navigate the complex immigration system in order to apply for visas and green cards, authored the report , which found the Cleveland metropolitan area to be the best city to become a U.S. citizen, as well as the best field office to become a U.S. citizen.
The wait time to process an application at the Cleveland field office is a mere four months, which is less than half of the national average of 10 months.
Four times a month, a large room in the federal courthouse downtown plays host to the naturalization ceremony. Joe Cimperman, the president of Global Cleveland, said every ceremony he’s attended the past two years has been full.
“I don’t care who you are. I don’t care if you’re wearing red (Republican) or blue (Democrat), if you go to those ceremonies, you will be moved,” Cimperman said. “Our goal is to be so successful that instead of having four ceremonies a month they have to have eight.”
Cimperman’s organization offers assistance to immigrants and naturalized citizens by connecting them with social and employment opportunities. Cimperman lauded the efforts of the Cleveland field office, which has efficiently processed thousands of citizenship applications in recent years.
According to federal citizenship records, more than 2800 people became naturalized citizens in 2016. The following year, the number nearly doubled to 4797 people becoming naturalized citizens through the Cleveland field office.
In 2018, more than 4500 people became naturalized citizens. Cimperman expects 2019’s figures to be in excess of 4500 people again.
Cimperman said the city’s ranking as the best place to become a U.S. citizen is important for a number of reasons. Studies show naturalized citizens generally are promoted at work sooner and earn more. Additionally, naturalized citizens are more likely to live and work in the same city where they were naturalized. With Cleveland’s system being so efficient, Cimperman believes many of those newly-minted U.S. citizens will reside in the region, ultimately paying taxes, starting businesses, and raising families.
Cimperman is living proof of that belief.
“I may not appear to be somebody who is the son of an immigrant but it is something I wouldn’t be who I was today without it,” Cimperman said. “There is a different understanding of a country when your folks can tell you stories about where people weren’t allow to vote or if they thought the wrong thing they could disappear. I will say this and I mean no disrespect, but Americans take America for granted. Immigrants don’t do that.”
Cimperman said the new ranking is a huge marketing opportunity as well.
“There are so many reasons that are why a community, in order to be economic developmentally successful, that you want naturalized citizens to be there. The fact that Cleveland is doing this in a way that is better than any other city in the country, it feels like the 2016 Cavs championship parade,” Cimperman said. “We try so hard in this town. We’re seeing it with Baker Mayfield. We feel it with the Indians and certainly with the Cavs. But on something like this that is also so much a part of our DNA, to me it says something we’re starting to remember where we came from.”
Cimperman points to the decade of 1910 to 1920, considered by historians to be one of the golden ages of Cleveland’s history. Three of the city’s major and world renowned institutions, The City Club, Cleveland Foundation and the Metroparks, were created around the same time.
During that period in the city’s history, more than 40 percent of the city’s population spoke English as a second language. The report can be found here.