For many immigrants to the United States the ultimate goal is gaining citizenship. There are two ways to become a United States Citizen, 1) to be born within the United States, or 2) through naturalization. This article will focus on the most common path to apply for naturalized citizenship in the United States. There are different eligibility requirements if you applying for naturalization based off of being married to a United States Citizen, having served in the US military, or are obtaining citizenship through US Citizen Parents. The requirements can be found on the USCIS website.
An Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) must be filed with USCIS either online or by mail with the filing fee and biometric fee if applicable. In order to file the Form N-400 Naturalization Application the applicant must meet the following qualifications:
- Be 18 years or older at the time of filing the naturalization application
- Be a Green Card holder, also known as a Legal Permanent Resident, for at least 5 years immediately preceding the filing of the naturalization application
- Have lived in the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence for at least 3 months prior to the filing of the naturalization application
- A student may apply either where they go to school or if they are still financially dependent on their parent(s) then they can also apply where their family lives.
- Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the filing of the naturalization application
- Continuous residence will usually be interrupted if the applicant leaves the United States for longer than 6th months at one time.
- Have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months (2.5 years) of the 5 years immediately preceding the filing the naturalization application
- Be able to read, write, and speak English and have the knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government
- Be of good moral character, and be willing to declare your attachment to the Constitution in other words be willing to support and defend the United States and the Constitution
After the N-400 Application for Naturalization is filed with USCIS then the applicant will received an appointment letter to have their biometrics done. This will usually entail providing fingerprints, photographs and/or signature to verify identity in order to perform a background check.
Then, the applicant will receive an interview appointment to go to a USCIS office. The interview will usually include a USCIS officer asking about the applicant’s background, supporting evidence for the naturalization case, residence, applicant’s character, etc. You may have a representative attend the interview as well. Also during the interview. the applicant will be given an English test to test the applicant on their ability to read, write and speak English, as well as a civics test to test the applicant’s knowledge on U.S. history and government. Note that some of the answers to the civics questions can change from time to time to reflect the results of federal and state elections, new appointments, or to provide clarification on the content. An applicant may also be exempt from the English test and can take the civics test in the language of their choice based on age and time as a permanent residence or because of a disability. At the end of the interview, the applicant will receive a decision that their application has either been granted, the case is being continued (which can include coming back for another interview, providing additional documentation or retaking the English or civics tests), or your case may be denied.
Once the application for naturalization is approved then the applicant will have to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. This can sometimes be done the same day as the interview; otherwise the applicant will have to attend an Oath Ceremony. After taking the Oath, you will receive your Certification of Naturalization as documentation that you are a United States Citizen.