Every year, hundreds of thousands of people apply for U.S. citizenship. As a citizen, there are a multitude of rights and privileges you can enjoy, such as the right to vote, the right to run for elected office, and the right to worship and express yourself as you wish.
Naturalized citizens founded, shaped, and built our country, and by becoming a naturalized citizen yourself, you will be following in the footsteps of some of the most defining figures of our history.
Here, we’ve broken down the process of becoming a citizen into 8 easy steps.
1. Determine if you are already a U.S. citizen.
There are two ways to become a U.S. citizen: by birth, or by naturalization. Before you even begin the naturalization process, take a look at your circumstances. You may already be a citizen if:
- You were born abroad to a U.S. citizen.
- You are a minor, and one of your parents has become a naturalized citizen.
- You were born in a U.S. territory such as Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
2. Determine if you are eligible for naturalization.
Before you can begin the application, there are certain requirements you must meet. To apply for naturalization, you must be:
- At least 18 years old
- A permanent resident of the U.S. for over 5 years (if single)
- A permanent resident for over 3 years (if married to a U.S. citizen)
- A member of the U.S. armed forces who has served for over 1 year
Veterans who performed active duty military service during World War II, the Korea War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, or the Iraq War are also eligible for U.S. citizenship. If you have circumstances other than those listed above, the Law Offices of Neelam Bhardwaj can help you determine whether or not you qualify for citizenship.
The most challenging part of becoming a citizen is assembling the necessary documents. This can be complicated, but a legal professional such as Neelam Bhardwaj can provide assistance that will greatly simplify the process. The following is a brief overview of the forms and documents that most people will need to submit. If you have extenuating circumstances, be sure to speak to a professional to verify which additional forms may apply to you.
In general, you will need:
- Form N-400, the application for citizenship. This can be either downloaded at uscis.gov or mailed to you upon your request.
- Two passport-style photos with your Alien Registration Number written on the back in pencil. You may wear a head covering, but your face must be visible.
- A photocopy of your Permanent Resident Card (informally known as your Green Card.)
- A check or money order for the application fee ($595).
- A check or money order for the biometrics fingerprinting fee ($85).
- Any documents that legally changed your name, such as your marriage certificate, if applicable.
- Evidence that your spouse has been a citizen for the last 3 years, if applicable.
- Evidence that you and your spouse have lived together for the past 3 years, such as copies of income tax forms you filed jointly, if applicable.
- Evidence of termination of your prior marriages, such as a divorce decree, if applicable.
If you are applying based on your military service, there are additional forms you must fill out. Be sure to read more about the requirements on USCIS.gov, or set up an appointment with an immigration lawyer.
4. Submit everything to USCIS.
Gather your application, photographs, documents, and fees and send them to the USCIS. Keep a copy of your application, because you will most likely need to reference it during your Naturalization Interview. You will receive a receipt notice when your application has been received, usually within two or three weeks of submission. To check on the status of your application, you can visit uscis.gov or call 1-800-375-5283.
5. Go to your Biometrics Appointment.
Three to five months after sending in your application, you will receive an appointment notice for your biometrics appointment. Biometrics, in this case, simply means “fingerprinting”, and the FBI will use it to perform your criminal background check. If you aged 75 years or older at the time of filing, you are exempt from this procedure, although you will still be subject to other background checks.
6. Go to your Naturalization Interview.
Four to six months after filing, you will receive a notice with the time and date of your Naturalization Interview. It is important that you make every effort to attend your interview, as rescheduling will likely add several months to the naturalization process. At the interview, you will meet with a USCIS officer and:
- Answer questions about your application
- Correctly read and write a sentence in English
- Take a brief history/civics test
- Review the results of your background check
To give yourself the greatest chance of passing, be sure to study questions you will likely be asked before your interview. If you do not speak English fluently, there are many cost-effective ways to learn.
7. Decide how to proceed.
After your interview, USCIS will give you a form that either approves, denies, or continues your application. How you proceed depends on the results of your application.
- Granted: Congratulations! You have only one step left—taking the Oath of Allegiance.
- Continued: This means that USCIS needs a second interview or additional evidence before it can make a decision. If you failed the English or Civics test, you will be asked to take it again within 60-90 days. You will only be retested on the parts you previously failed.
- Denied: If you fail the English/Civics test a second time, or if the USCIS does not find you eligible for citizenship, your application will be denied. If this happens, you may request a hearing to appeal the decision. If you do not appeal within 30 days, the decision will be final.
8. Take the Oath of Allegiance
If your application is accepted, it will be time for you to complete the final part of the naturalization process: taking an Oath of Allegiance. Sometimes, an applicant will be able to participate in the ceremony on the same day of his or her Naturalization Interview. In certain districts, the ceremony must be performed by a judge in a courtroom. After you take the Oath, you will receive your Certificate of Naturalization. You will then be an official citizen of the United States, entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as every other citizen.
If you are ready to begin the naturalization process, a professional immigration lawyer can guide you and ensure that no mistakes or oversights are made. Click here to learn more about Neelam Bhardwaj, her practice, and her experience, and then call or email today to start applying for U.S. citizenship.