Process to Apply for Citizenship in the US
The process of applying for citizenship varies depending on many factors. Below is information on how you can become a citizen through naturalization.
Becoming a US Citizen through Naturalization
Non-US citizens can become American Citizens voluntarily via naturalization. However, such individuals need to swear allegiance to America and meet other conditions. The naturalization process has several notable conditions. They include;
You must maintain permanent residence in America for 5 years minimum or 3 years minimum to qualify for naturalization. The three-year minimum requirement applies to individuals filling as spouses of American citizens.
Individuals applying for citizenship also need to renew their resident cards before applying. Applications should be submitted before getting a new green card. However, there are some requirements that must be met.
What’s more, individuals seeking naturalization must be adults (aged 18 and above). They also need to be proficient in English (able to speak, write and read). Applicants must also have a good moral character and meet other eligibility requirements as per the USCIS.
Filling-In & Submitting Form N-400
Once you have established that you meet eligibility requirements, the next step is completing Form N-400 online via the USCIS website. Filing can be via paper/mail or online. If you choose to file online, you need a USCIS online a/c. Besides being able to file Form B-400, you’ll also be able to check your application status, pay filing fees, receive status updates, respond to requests, manage contact information, etc.
Applications are handled even in the absence of online accounts. If you are filing by mail, you should receive an acceptance notice from the USCIS on how to manage your case. Notifications on the application status will also be sent via mail.
When submitting Form N-400, you’ll need to pay fees. Payment is made before you can receive a receipt notice.
Most individuals applying for citizenship will need to go for a biometrics appointment. If that’s the case with you, the USCIS will send a biometrics appointment notice detailing everything from the location of your appointment to the date and time. The biometrics appointment involves collecting biometric information like fingerprints, height, eye color, etc. To avoid delays, arrive at your designated location early.
A biometric fee is applicable. However, there are exemptions. For instance, elderly applicants aged 75 or more don’t need to pay. The same applies to military applicants.
As part of the process to apply for citizenship, you will be required to sit for an interview. You must attend the interview at the said date and time stated in your appointment notice. What’s more, you need to carry your appointment notice.
In the interview, expect to be asked questions such as your background and other application-related information. Unless you are exempted, you will be required to take a special test (naturalization test) made up of civics and English tests. The English test is meant to test your English competency, which happens to be a requirement for naturalization. The civics test is meant to test knowledge of american history and government.
After the naturalization interview, expect to receive a decision on your Form N-400 application. The USCIS sends the notice of decision via mail. The notice can also be accessed electronically via your USCIS account.
Your application for citizenship can either be denied, granted, or continued. Applications can be denied for varied reasons ranging from an incomplete application to integrity-related issues. Remember, individuals applying for citizenship must be of sound moral character. If you have a serious criminal record that is revealed during application processing, your application is likely to be denied. However, there are exceptions for “small crimes” record.
The USCIS approves Form N-400 when there is sufficient evidence establishing eligibility for naturalization. Applications are continued if they need further documentation or evidence. To avoid delays, submit the correct documents and prepare adequately for your civic and English tests.
Notice of Naturalization Ceremony
Approved applications are followed by a notice to formally take an Oath swearing allegiance to America. The notice acts as an invite to a ceremony (naturalization ceremony). In some cases, some applicants can take the Oath earlier i.e., when taking their naturalization interview.
What’s more, the ceremony may be unavailable. In such a case, the USCIS will inform you accordingly of the time, date, and location of your ceremony. You can access your notice to the naturalization ceremony online via the USCIS online account.
Taking Oath of Allegiance
Individuals who pursue US citizenship should be willing to swear allegiance to the US. The process of applying and receiving US citizenship isn’t complete if you refuse to take the Oath.
You can familiarize yourself with the Oath on the USCIS website. Complete Form N-445 (Notice of Naturalization ceremony) questionnaire and report for the ceremony. USCIS officers review Form-N-445 responses. Before becoming a US citizen, you should turn in your green card.
The process is formally complete when you get your Naturalization certificate. You should review the certificate and notify the USCIS immediately if you see errors. This should be done before you leave the ceremony site.
The above information summarizes the process to apply for US citizenship. Given the complexity of some unique citizenship cases, it’s advisable to seek legal advice from an immigration attorney to increase your odds of being a US citizen.
Understanding US Citizenship
Getting citizenship is the beginning. To enjoy all benefits that come with US citizenship, it’s important to understand American Citizenship. There are some rights and responsibilities followed by all US citizens regardless of their path to citizenship.
Whether you become a citizen by birth or choice, you must be ready to defend America, if need be. Every American citizen must respect and obey local, state, and federal laws. You also need to respect the beliefs, rights, and opinions of others.
Naturalized citizens also need to understand basic rights enjoyed by American citizens, such as the freedom of speech, worship, right to justice, right to vote, right to run for public office, and the freedom to pursue liberty, life, and happiness. The USCIS website highlights in detail what it means to be an American.