The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has reported that the naturalization rates among eligible permanent residents has risen to record levels during recent years. Cumulative naturalization rates through 2005 approached 60 percent for lawful permanent residents who had attained such status at least 20 years earlier. During the period between 2006 and 2008, a total of 2.4 million permanent residents became U.S. citizens. The general rule is that permanent residents must have held that status for five years before applying for naturalization if they meet certain other preconditions. Permanent residents who gained such status through marriage to a U.S. citizen need to have been a permanent resident only for three years to apply for naturalization in most circumstances. The fact that the immigration laws continue to tighten especially with the ability of DHS to initiate removal (deportation) proceedings against permanent residents may be helping to fuel the rise in naturalization rates, as may be the fact that U.S. citizens do not risk losing their U.S. immigration status if they are assigned overseas. Other benefits include being able to tap into a greater array of benefits and the ability to sponsor some foreign relatives.