Become a U.S. Citizen: How Long Is the Green Card Processing Time?

Starting from the time you file your application, the process currently takes between six months to ten years and typically takes one year or less. The United States of America is known as the land of opportunities. However, we do not all have the privilege of being born an American citizen. For those of us that are, it is important to understand the difficult process many immigrants face to become U.S. citizens. Before you can understand the green card processing time, you must first know the requirements to apply for permanent citizenship as the process starts the minute you obtain your green card.  

What Is a Green Card and How Long Is the Green Card Processing Time?

A green card is the unofficial name for a permanent resident card which is needed to live permanently in the U.S. To obtain a green card, you’ll need to fill out paperwork with the USCIS, the United States Citizen and Immigration Services. While it may only take a few months, it could take up to ten years for the green card processing time to be completed. Once you have it, your green card is good for a period of ten years. After that, you must renew it in order to keep it up to date.  You will generally be able to go through the renewal process without issue unless you have abandoned your status or acted unlawfully. Once you complete this step, you are on track to becoming a citizen.  

The Six Requirements for the Naturalization Process

Besides having a green card, you’ll also need to meet six basic requirements.
  1. You must be a law-abiding permanent resident with a green card.
  2. You must be 18 years of age or older. Children under 18 automatically become U.S. citizens once both their parents have successfully completed the application. Or, in some cases, only one parent needs to become a citizen. This occurs if one of the parents is deceased, if the child was born out of wedlock, or if the parents are legally separated and do not have joint custody. In that case, only the parent with the custody rights would need to become a citizen.
  3. You must be able to prove that you have lived in the U.S. for at least five years if you’re single or three years if you’re married to a U.S. citizen.
  4. You must have lived in the same state for at least three months before applying.
  5. You must have demonstrated good moral character for a period of 5 years before filing for naturalization.
  6. Finally, you must be able to read, write, speak, and understand basic English.
 

Fill Out an N-400, the Application for Naturalization

The next step in the process is to fill out an N-400 application for naturalization, the official form for becoming a U.S. citizen. This step is completable online, but may take a while as the USCIS takes between six months and one year to finalize your paperwork. If you’d rather not file the form online, you’ll find instructions on the document explaining where to mail it in. Where you live depends on where you send it and how long the process will take.  

Your Biometrics Appointment

After the USCIS accepts your application, you’ll need to attend a biometrics appointment. During this appointment, the USCIS will conduct a background check and take your fingerprints.  

Next, Pass the Citizenship Interview

Once you’ve finished your biometrics appointment, you’ll schedule a citizenship interview with an immigration officer. During this interview, the officer may question you or ask for clarification about your application. After that, it’s time for the English and Civics test.  

The English and Civics Test

You will be required to read an English sentence aloud then write one for the officer to approve. After you’ve passed the English portion, you need to successfully answer six out of 10 questions. The USCIS pulls these 10 questions from a predetermined list of 100. Published by USCIS, the questions can be studied here. For both the English and the Civics test, you may be exempt if you’re over a certain age or have had a green card for an extended period of time. Once you pass both tests, you’ll then be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony where you’ll take the Oath of Allegiance. Finally, once you finished the oath, you’ll then be an American citizen. Congratulations! For more information about the USCIS processing time, visit USCIS’S website, or contact Neelam Bhardwaj for professional and legal advice.

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