Become a US Citizen: Naturalization Application Explained

 

 

There are many benefits to becoming a United States citizen.  Among the most important benefits of U.S. citizenship are traveling with a U.S. passport, helping other family members obtain U.S. citizenship or green cards, becoming eligible for certain Federal jobs, and voting in elections.

 

This blog discusses how to become a U.S. citizen.

 

Eligibility Criteria for Naturalization

 

Naturalization is the legal process by which a non-citizen of a country acquires citizenship in such country.  The general eligibility criteria to become a naturalized U.S. citizen are:

  • You are at least 18 years old;
  • You have been a lawful permanent resident of the United States (i.e., you have had a green card), and you have demonstrated continuous residence in the United States, for at least five years;
  • You have lived in the U.S. state or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) district where you claim residence for at least three months;
  • You have demonstrated physical presence in the United States for at least 30 months;
  • You demonstrate good moral character and an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution;
  • You demonstrate a basic knowledge of U.S, history and government, as well as an ability to read, write, speak, and understand basic English; and
  • You are willing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and are well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States.

 

If you have been married for at least three years to a spouse who has been a U.S. citizen for those three years, you can be subject to reduced time period requirements for your eligibility criteria to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.  Specifically, in such a case, the “five years” time period described above will be reduced to three years, and the “30 months” time period described above will be reduced to 18 months.

 

Form N-400

 

The key form in the U.S. citizenship application process is Form N-400, “Application for Naturalization”.

 

Form N-400 requires various information, including concerning your name, date and country of birth, country of nationality, ethnicity, race, certain physical characteristics, residence, marital history, children, employment, education, and time outside the United States.

 

In addition, you must answer various questions on Form N-400 about your prior activities.  These questions (such as, for example, do you owe any overdue taxes, have you been associated with any Communist or totalitarian party, or have you committed certain crimes) can help determine if you have met the “good moral character” and “attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution” eligibility criteria to become a U.S. citizen.

 

Documents Required for Form N-400

 

The following three documents are required for every Form N-400 application:

  1. A copy of both sides of your green card;
  2. If you reside outside the United States, two identical color photographs of you, with your name and Alien Registration Number written lightly in pencil on the back of each photo; and
  3. Either a check or money order or, if you pay by credit card, Form G–1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transaction, for payment of the required application fee and biometric services fee in connection with Form N-400.
  4. In addition, based on your specific factual circumstances, you may be required to provide other documents with your Form N-400 application.  For example:
    • If you are applying for naturalization based on your marriage to a U.S. citizen, you need to provide evidence that your spouse has been a U.S. citizen for the last three years, your current marriage certificate, proof of termination of all prior marriages of your spouse, and documents that help to establish that you and your spouse have a bona fide marriage (including tax returns, bank accounts, leases, mortgages, or birth certificates of children); and
    • If you have ever been convicted of a crime, you need to provide an original or court-certified copy of the sentencing record for the incident and evidence that you completed your sentence.

 

Filing and Waiting Period

 

The Form N-400, and all required documents, should be filed online with USCIS.  As a special rule, you generally can file your Form N-400 90 calendar days before you have met the “continuous residence” naturalization eligibility requirement if you have otherwise met the other eligibility criteria.

 

USCIS will send you a receipt notice for your filed Form N-400.

 

There is no exact guaranteed waiting period for the processing of each Form N-400 application.  The processing time for your Form N-400 application will vary based on the specific USCIS field office that is reviewing your application.  There are currently over 80 USCIS field offices that process Form N-400 applications.  You can check on the estimated processing time for your Form N-400 application at egov.uscis.gov.

 

 

Citizenship Interview and Test

 

As part of the Form N-400 application process, USCIS will schedule an interview with you.  At this citizenship interview, a USCIS officer will ask you questions about your Form N-400.  These questions can cover any aspect of your Form N-400, including biographic information and your employment and education history.  While the exact length of the citizenship interview will vary by applicant, it typically lasts about 20 to 30 minutes.

 

You also will have to take a citizenship test.  This citizenship test will be made up of two components:

  1. An English test.  During the English test, you will need to demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including the ability to read, write, and speak basic English; and
  2. A civics test.  During the civics test, you will need to answer questions about American government and history,

 

Oath Ceremony

 

If your Form N-400 is approved, the final step to become a U.S. citizen is to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.  The Oath of Allegiance will be administered either by USCIS at an administrative ceremony or by a judge in a judicial ceremony.

 

USCIS will mail you a notification with the date, time, and location of your scheduled oath ceremony.  In some limited cases (if allowed by the USCIS field office where your citizenship interview is conducted), you may be able to participate in an oath ceremony on the same day as your citizenship interview.

 

Once you take the Oath of Allegiance, you will return your green card and receive your Certificate of Naturalization, evidencing that you have become a U.S. citizen.

 

Conclusion

 

Because of the important benefits that it can provide, U.S. citizenship is an attractive goal for many foreign nationals.  However, the U.S. citizenship application journey can be very complex.  Being successful at each of the steps on this journey – the Form N-400, the documents filed with the Form N-400, the citizenship interview, the citizenship test, and the oath ceremony – is not easy.

 

To increase your likelihood of attaining U.S, citizenship, it is critical that you work with a competent U.S. immigration attorney who understands the U.S. citizenship application process.  With years of experience and knowledge in helping others obtain their U.S. citizenship, Ashoori Law can provide you with the necessary professional assistance and advice to successfully guide you on your U.S. citizenship application journey.

 

We thank you for reading this blog.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions.  We look forward to continuing to provide you with information about U.S. immigration law topics as your trusted source on U.S. immigration law.

 

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