How Do I Qualify to Become a U.S. Citizen?
Are you a U.S. Green Card holder? If so, then you know that even a permanent Green Card comes with certain limitations. If you would like to experience the full benefits of being a United States citizen, you need to complete the naturalization citizenship process. The path to U.S. citizenship is complex. Before you can complete a naturalization application, you must be a green card holder and meet the other eligibility criteria.
Am I Eligible to Become a U.S. Citizen?The applicant must:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Show that you are a lawfully-admitted permanent resident of the United States
- Have resided in the United States as a lawful, permanent resident for at least five years
- Been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months
- Be a person of good moral character
- Must be able to speak, read, write, and understand the English language
- You need to understand the fundamentals of the history, principles, and forms of government of the United States
- Demonstrate an attachment to the principles of the Constitution
- Be willing to support the happiness of the United States
- Be willing and able to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States
10 Steps to Naturalization
Do you meet each of the eligibility requirements listed above? If so, then you are ready to complete the 10 steps required to become a U.S. citizen. Becoming a U.S. citizen is a complicated process; you will need an experienced immigration lawyer to help you through the application process. Each step must be completed before you can take the Oath of Allegiance and qualify for U.S. citizenship.
Naturalization Steps 1-3Step 1: If you were not born in the United States, go to Step 2. Step 2: Are you eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship? If you meet the requirements listed above, go to Step 3. Step 3: Prepare Form N-400. Your immigration lawyer can help you prepare this form. When it is completed, go to Step 4.
What is Form N-400?
This form, which can be downloaded through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) website, is designed to help you become a U.S. citizen through naturalization. Form N-400 collects personal information to help the USCIS determine if that individual is qualified to become a U.S. citizen. The form can be filed online or through the United States postal service. Application fees are due when Form N-400 is filed. Individuals applying for U.S. citizenship must provide all the required documentation along with their completed form. You need to fill out this application form even if you already have a permanent Green Card.
The documentation checklist is available on the USCIS website. A few of the items you will need to provide are listed below. In most cases, photocopy documents will meet the application requirements. Your immigration attorney can help you determine which documentation best fits your circumstances.
Documentation You Must Provide
Naturalization Steps 4-6
Step 4: Submit your N-400 form to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You will also need to pay the application fee. After you complete this step, go to Step 5.
Step 5: Go to your biometrics appointment (see details below). Once you complete the appointment, go to Step 6.
Step 6: Complete an in-person interview with a person from USCIS. Your immigration lawyer will be with you during the interview. When the interview is over, go to Step 7.
What Happens at a USCIS Biometrics Appointment?
A representative of the USCIS biometric services will take your fingerprints and photograph. You will also sign your name at the appointment. This process confirms your identity so that USCIS can conduct a criminal background check. A biometrics screening is not an interview. Suppose it is part of your religious beliefs to wear a head-covering or face-covering. In that case, the USCIS will require that the applicant’s face be fully visible for all photographs to verify the person’s identity. Head-covering may remain on during the photographs. Speak to your immigration attorney about the biometric services fees associated with your citizenship application.
Things to Expect at the In-Person Interview
Once you have completed your biometrics appointment, you can schedule an n-person interview with the USCIS. The in-person interview is the last major obstacle on the path to U.S. citizenship. During this appointment, the applicant must answer a series of questions about their motives for becoming a U.S. citizen. Applicants will also take a civics test to determine how much they know about U.S history and government.
The civics test is a vital part of the U.S. citizenship application process. Failure to correctly answer the civics test questions could result in a denial of your citizenship application. This test examines an applicant's knowledge of the U.S. constitution and the history of the U.S. Each immigrant who wishes to apply for U.S. citizenship should take the online practice test. Your immigration attorney is a great asset as you move through the interview preparation process. An experienced attorney will also help you navigate any policy changes as you apply for naturalization.
Facts About the Civics Practice Test
- Available to take online at the USCIS website.
- The practice test includes 20 multiple-choice questions.
- Test questions are available in English and Spanish.
- The answers to the questions change based on current policies and events.
What Happens During the USCIS Civics Test?
- During the in-person interview, the USCIS representative will ask 6-10 questions about the U.S.
- Questions are in English.
- Answers must be in English.
- Make sure that all the answers to the questions are up-to-date.
Naturalization Steps 7-9
Step 7: Wait for a decision. After your interview, USCIS will review your application (step 2). They will inform you of their decision by mail, or online. What will your letter say (see details below)? Once you receive a decision, go to Step 8.
Step 8: When your application is approved (granted) by the USCIS, you can attend the naturalization ceremony. You are not a U.S. citizen until you complete Step 9.
Step 9: Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
What is the Status of My N-400 Form?When USCIS sends you a response to your application, you will receive one of the three replies listed below. Your immigration lawyer will help you determine the next steps to take if your application is marked “continued” or “denied.” Granted - USCIS may approve your application if the evidence in your record establishes that you are eligible for naturalization. (Go to Step 8 in the naturalization process) Continued - USCIS may continue your application if you need to provide additional evidence/documentation, fail to provide USCIS the correct documents, or fail the English and/or civics test the first time. (Speak to your immigration attorney about what to do now.) Denied - USCIS will deny your Form N-400 if the evidence in your record establishes you are not eligible for naturalization. (Speak to your immigration attorney about what to do now.)
What Happens at a Naturalization Ceremony?
- Complete the questionnaire on Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony.
- Report for your naturalization ceremony and check in with USCIS. A USCIS officer will review your responses to Form N-445.
- Turn in your Permanent Resident Card (Green Card).
- Take the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen.
- Receive your Certificate of Naturalization(citizenship certificate), review it, and notify USCIS of any errors you see on your certificate before leaving the ceremony site.
What Is the Oath of Allegiance?A person cannot become a Naturalized U.S citizen until they take the Oath of Allegiance. The Oath means that you support and are bound to the values and ideas that make up the foundation of democracy. These values include freedom, equality, and liberty for all U.S citizens. A person who has completed the application process will take the Oath at the Naturalization ceremony. It is the final requirement to becoming a U.S citizen. Knowledge of English is required to take the Oath.
From Green Card Holder to U.S. CitizenshipStep 10: Congratulations! You are now a United States citizen. You do not have any more forms to fill out. Your citizenship is a life-long commitment to uphold your new country’s beliefs and enrich the lives of those around you. As mentioned before, there are numerous benefits to trading in your Green Card for naturalized citizenship. Individuals who take the path to citizenship enjoy many perks and have the opportunity to sponsor other immigrants who would like to enter the United States legally.
10 Benefits of Being a Naturalized U.S. Citizen?
- Earn the right to vote in state and federal elections
- Can serve on a jury in legal cases
- You can travel with a U.S. passport
- Naturalized U.S. citizens receive priority status to bring family members to the United States
- Obtain citizenship for children under the age of 18
- Can apply for lucrative federal jobs
- Become an elected official
- U.S. residency cannot be taken away
- You are eligible for federal grants and scholarships
- Become eligible for certain government benefits that only apply to U.S. citizens