Sometimes immigration cases feel more like marathons than sprints. Applying and receiving your Naturalization Certificate is like finally crossing the race finish line. If you are ready to take the final step in your immigration journey and apply for U.S. citizenship, let our office be your guide.
Requirements for U.S. Naturalization
Naturalization is the process of applying for U.S. citizenship. Having lawful permanent resident status (a “green card”) is only the first step in becoming a U.S. citizen. Here is a summary of the main requirements to become a naturalized U.S. citizen:
- You must have been a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) for at least 5 years (3 years if married to a U.S. citizen).
- You must be able to show that you have been continuously residing in the U.S. for 5 years before filing and up to the date of admission as a U.S. citizen. Trips outside of the U.S. of more than 6 months outside the U.S. may be considered to have stopped your continuous residence.
- You must be physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the 5 years before filing your application.
- You must show “good moral character” in the 5 years before filing your application and up to taking your Oath of Allegiance.
In addition to the above, another key requirement is that you have lived in the state for at least 3 months where you will file your application with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) office.
Finally, you must be able to read, write, speak, and understand English along with passing a test on U.S. history and government. LPR applicants meeting certain disability or age exceptions are permitted to take the test in their own language or receive other accommodations.
The U.S. Naturalization Process
First, you submit a completed Form N-400 Application for Naturalization along with the required filing fee (or fee waiver) and supporting documentation. The process involves correctly filling out what has grown into a 21-page form that covers several aspects of your life. A failure to correctly and completely fill out this application is the cause of many denials.
Next, USCIS will schedule you for a biometrics appointment. At this appointment, you will have your photograph and fingerprints taken in order for USCIS to conduct a background check. You will also be given a study guide for the U.S. history and government test. The guide is also available here.
The Naturalization Test & Interview
The final step in the Naturalization process is the interview. The interview will be scheduled at your local USCIS Field Office. You have the right to bring an attorney to represent you. The USCIS officer will put you under oath and then begin the history and government exam. If you fail the exam on your first attempt, you will be given a second interview date to try again before having to re-apply.
The officer will go through your application with you. Here is where many applicants find that having an attorney present at the interview is helpful because an officer could determine that there are legal requirements that the applicant has not met. For example, applicants with any sort of criminal history, U.S. tax issues, or child support issues may be found not to have “good moral character.” These determinations often require an attorney to argue why an applicant meets the legal standards imposed by the law.
If your application is approved, you will be given a date for your naturalization ceremony. At the ceremony you will take an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. and only once you have taken the Oath of Allegiance are you considered a U.S. citizen. At your ceremony, you will get your Naturalization Certificate. In some ceremonies, you will also have the chance to apply for your U.S. passport.
Citizenship At Birth or Automatic Citizenship
Sometimes a person is a U.S. citizen even though they were not born in the U.S. and does not need to go through the U.S. Naturalization process. They are either considered citizens at birth or automatically become U.S. citizens when a certain set of events occur. These people do not apply for Naturalization. Instead, these people apply for a Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600).
There are two main ways to become a U.S. Citizen at birth or receive Automatic Citizenship:
- Someone born overseas to one or both U.S. citizen parents may be considered a U.S. citizen at the time of their birth if their mother or father meet certain requirements under the law.
- Someone is born overseas and one or both parents later become U.S. citizens or they are adopted by U.S. citizens. When this is the case, additional requirements are still needed to receive U.S. citizenship that depend on when the person was born and how they entered the U.S. There are separate requirements for adopted children too.
Whether you are seeking to become a naturalized citizen of the U.S. or you need to confirm your U.S. citizenship by obtaining a Certificate of Citizenship, our office will work with you to obtain this truly life changing immigration benefit.