Citizenship is the foundation of basic rights derived from and is protected by the United States Constitution and laws. Anyone born in the US (including the territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands) is automatically awarded U.S. citizenship.
Becoming a citizen of the US entails several rewards, privileges, and rights. Many people make huge sacrifices to try a great deal so that they may immigrate to the US. Aside from being born in the USA, there are additional ways to gain US citizenship, which will be addressed more below.
How Do I Become A U.S Citizen?
It is possible to become a legal citizen of the US in four ways, all of which are fundamental:
- Citizenship because you were born in the United States.
- Citizenship through derivation from a parent
- Citizenship by acquisition
- Citizenship by naturalization.
The naturalization procedure is how most foreigners coming to the US acquire citizenship. In reality, each year, about one million permanent residents seek naturalization.
Definition Of Naturalization
Naturalization is the procedure by which a legal permanent resident is awarded U.S. citizenship after completing the standards imposed by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
A person who gains or derives citizenship from his US citizen parents is awarded a US citizenship certificate. A certificate of naturalization, on the other hand, is given to someone who acquires a citizen of the US via naturalization. Prior to that, the individual seeking to gain a U.S citizen must have a Green Card.
Requirements For Naturalization
Individuals seeking to become citizens of the United States must adhere to these requirements:
- Have a Green or Permanent Resident Card – An individual must have a Green or Permanent Resident Card for a minimum of 5 years, or 3 years if filing as a U.S. citizen’s spouse. If the individual’s green card expires within 6 months of application or if their card has expired already, they must renew it before seeking to become a citizen.
- Prior to acquiring a new permanent resident card or green card, an individual may seek to become a naturalized citizen. They must provide a true copy of the Form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card) receipt.
- Meet Specific Eligibility Requirements – Some requirements include being a minimum of 18 at the point of application, being able to speak, read, and write basic English, and having high moral character.
- Comply with the 10-stage naturalization process – This is the process outlined on the USCIS website, which includes determining the person’s eligibility to become a citizen of the US.
- Completing the N-400 form for a citizenship application. Setting up a free account for online form submission.
- Taking the Naturalization Test in the US, followed by a personal interview.
When Is the Best Time To Apply To Become A U.S Citizen?
When an individual meets the qualifying conditions, they can proceed with the application to get citizenship. To be legally eligible for naturalization, the applicant must comply with the following requirements:
- The individual is 18 years old (under 18 if applying through their parents).
- The individual has held permanent resident status for at least 5 years.
- The individual has been physically within the country for a minimum of 30 months (from the previous 5 years) immediately before the date the N-400 form was submitted.
The Naturalization Procedure For U.S Citizenship
Naturalization is defined in US immigration law as the process to be completed to acquire citizenship of the nation without being born in the US. Any permanent resident who has lived in the US for at least 5 years, or any permanent resident who has been married to the same spouse of US origin (or has had citizenship for at least 3 years), can petition to become a citizen of the US. Individuals participating in the military, on the other hand, have different standards than civilian residents.
The Procedure The USCIS, or the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is obligated to make a decision on an individual’s citizenship application as soon as practicable. If an individual has had their interview to become a citizen, the USCIS is obligated by law to decide within 120 days of the interview date. If the applicant is refused the right to become a citizen of the US by the USCIS, they have the right to appeal this decision.
The status of any lawful permanent resident is not permanent. Individuals convicted of particular offenses can have their permanent status removed under current US immigration law. This is true in the circumstances of minor misdemeanors under state law, or if the crime occurred many years ago. What are the procedures for becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States?
Step 1: The Application
The process of becoming a naturalized United States citizen begins with the submission of the N-400 Form (Application for Naturalization), followed by the payment of the filing fee (except when exempt). Individuals may either fill out the application on paper and send it by post, or use the online application. To complete it online, the person must first create an account with the USCIS. If the applicant is from another country, is in the military, or requires a fee waiver or discount, they must apply by mail (to the correct office of the USCIS).
Pre-filing (90-day) Rule: If an applicant meets all the qualifying conditions except the 3- or 5-year wait period (while still holding their green card), they can submit their N-400 Form to the USCIS office within 90 days. However, the applicant will still have to wait the whole 3-or 5-year period to become a citizen, but submitting early keeps the applicant ahead in the application process.
Step 2: Biometrics Appointment
Next, the applicant must schedule a biometrics appointment at their local USCIS field office, when their fingerprints will be taken. This is done so that the applicant’s background may be checked by the USCIS. The biometrics appointment is usually scheduled one month after the individual’s application for citizenship is received.
Step 3: The Interview/Examination
The applicant’s interview is typically scheduled 14 months after the application is filed. The specific time period for processing an individual’s application is determined by the USCIS field office in charge of the individual’s case, which is assigned based on the applicant’s ZIP code. During the interview, a USCIS official verifies the veracity of the individual’s information in the application. For candidates who live in the US, the interview is conducted at the closest USCIS office; for those who live overseas, the interview is scheduled at whichever U.S. Consulate or Embassy is closest.
During the interview, a USCIS official will administer a two-part citizenship test (unless the individual is exempt). It begins with an English language exam to assess the applicant’s spoken and written English skills. It is followed by a civics test to assess the individual’s understanding of the history of the US together with the fundamentals of how the country’s government operates.
USCIS will provide study guides that help the applicant prepare for the Civics Test, and after passing the test and interview, the individual’s application is granted. There is also the possibility that USCIS will schedule another interview or request additional papers at the completion of the interview. If the individual does not pass the interview, the USCIS will send the applicant a rejection letter outlining the reason for the decision. However, the applicant has 30 days after getting the refusal letter to reapply or appeal this decision.
Step 4: Allegiance Oath
After passing the interview, the candidate will get a notification in the mail with the time, venue, and date of the Oath of Allegiance ceremony. Completing this stage is required for everyone who wishes to become a citizen of the US. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the person will be given a certificate of naturalization.
Advantages Of Naturalization
Non-citizens are denied the following benefits as a result of attaining US citizenship: Under US law, you have the right to total protection. It is difficult to lose citizenship after it has been earned since the status provides an individual with security. Participation in elections with voting rights in federal elections (all) to select the country’s leaders
Eligibility to sponsor family members (spouses, children, brothers, parents, and/or sisters) for permanent residence and employment in the United States (using a Green Card). Eligibility to travel freely outside the country for an unlimited period of time. Entitlement to apply for a U.S. passport, transforming the passport into a new form of identification for an individual’s citizenship status.
In the case of university studies, access to numerous financial aid options is available. There is the possibility of applying for various federal government positions. Starting the whole naturalization process for U.S. citizenship is the ideal option for anybody who wants to enjoy rights like participating in elections or acquiring a U.S. passport, as well as assure a future in which their children have access to all advantages and rights. Due to the risk of delays and backlogs, it is best to begin the procedure as soon as feasible within the time constraints set by the government.
To avoid mistakes and complications, it is wise to hire an immigrant attorney. An experienced immigration lawyer should be able to provide valuable guidance and advice on applying for citizenship.
As Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in his dissent in Perez v. Brownell(1948):
Citizenship is man’s basic right for it is nothing less than the right to have rights. Remove this priceless possession and there remains a stateless person, disgraced and degraded in the eyes of his countrymen. He has no lawful claim to protection from any nation, and no nation may assert rights on his behalf. His very existence is at the sufference of the state within whose borders he happens to be. In this country the expatriate will presumably enjoy at most, only the limited rights and privileges of aliens and like the alien he might even be subject to deportation and thereby deprived of the right to assert any rights.