Cancellation of citizenship oath ceremonies and in-person interviews because of coronavirus means hundreds of thousands of people may not naturalize in time for November’s elections.
If ceremonies and interviews remain shut down until October without remote alternatives created by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, about 441,000 people who would have been citizens would be deprived of the chance to vote, according to Boundless Immigration, a technology company that helps immigrants apply for green cards and citizenship.
“USCIS did the right thing by pausing live oath ceremonies and live interviews, there’s no dispute about that,” said Doug Rand, cofounder of Boundless Immigration.
“The problem is USCIS hasn’t come up with a next step and come up with remote pathways for people to take the oath and do interviews,” said Rand, a former adviser to President Barack Obama on immigration.
Rand said USCIS could administer the oath in other ways.
"It's a beautiful oath and ceremony, but we shouldn't be standing on ceremony now," he said. "We should be helping these people who are literally on the threshold of becoming citizens to get over that line."
Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak
When USCIS shut down March 18, an estimated 126,000 people had completed their citizenship process and were scheduled to take the oath to become citizens.
Others were awaiting in-person interviews to answer test questions and demonstrate English proficiency. USCIS has extended office closures to at least May 3.
Rand’s company estimates that about 63,000 people a month are approved for naturalization, according to Boundless Immigration’s analysis of USCIS data.
NBC News requested comment from the federal agency, which said a response was pending.
Voter registration deadlines are in October
Voter registration deadlines in the 50 states for November's election occur throughout October, with some in the first week of the month.
The number of immigrants eligible to vote has grown to a record high of 23.2 million in 2020 —about 10 percent of the electorate—and is up from 20.6 million in 2016, according to Pew Research Center.
Turnout rates of foreign-born U.S. citizens are lower than those of U.S. citizens, except among Latinos and Asians, the two largest immigrant population groups, Pew reported.
Some federal agencies, as well as many businesses and schools, have switched to working and interacting online as the virus has forced people to keep their distance from one another and minimize contact with each other or surfaces touched by other people.
Boundless Immigration earns income from helping people apply for naturalization. The shutdown may affect the business, but Rand said people will likely still want to apply as soon as they are eligible, regardless of the delays.