How To Become A U.S. Citizen | Immigration Attorney Answers

By Published On: January 20, 2023Categories: Vlog, Immigration, Naturalization

Becoming a U.S. citizen is a significant milestone for immigrants. It represents the culmination of their journey toward full integration into American society. However, the path to citizenship can be complex, involving various requirements, examinations, and interviews.

What are the essential steps you need to take to become a U.S. citizen? This article highlights critical aspects from the naturalization exam to demonstrating good moral character. But first, knowing who is eligible to become one is essential.

Protect Yourself And Your Family By Becoming A U.S. Citizen And Get The Benefits This Status Brings With It

Who Is Eligible To Become A U.S. Citizen?

One essential requirement is being a lawful permanent resident, commonly known as a Green Card holder. This means that you must have already gone through the process of obtaining permanent residency before you can apply for citizenship.

Generally, applicants must have resided in the United States for a specific period before they can apply for citizenship. The exact duration can vary depending on various factors. Suppose you are married to a U.S. citizen and have a Green Card. You may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship after three years instead of the usual five years for non-married individuals.

This benefit allows for a shorter wait time to become a citizen. However, the three-year option is available regardless of whether you obtained your Green Card through marriage or other means.

It is recommended to consult the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. Or one can seek advice from an immigration lawyer to understand the specific residency requirements based on individual circumstances.

In addition to meeting residency requirements, applicants must demonstrate good moral character. This entails maintaining a clean criminal record and being transparent about past arrests or convictions. Also, passing an English and Civics test is crucial to meet the eligibility requirements for U.S. citizenship.

What Are The English Exam Requirements?

To become a U.S. citizen, you must demonstrate proficiency in English, including reading, writing, and speaking the language. During the naturalization interview, an officer from USCIS evaluates your English skills. They do this through a conversation that covers various topics related to U.S. history, government, and everyday life.

In terms of the English exam requirements, there is a reading and writing component. It requires you to read and write in simple English sentences. Additionally, there is an oral interview where you are evaluated on your ability to understand and respond to questions in English.

Studying for the English exam is crucial in preparing for the naturalization interview. The LGL team recommends utilizing resources provided by USCIS. This includes study guides and flashcards focusing on English vocabulary and sentence structure.

In addition, they recommend the official 100-question list, which covers the civics portion of the exam. It is a valuable tool for understanding U.S. history, government, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens. This list gives you more chances of passing the English exam.

How To Prepare For The Exam Effectively?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides resources for individuals seeking citizenship. These include flashcards and a set of 100 questions that applicants must study. It is advisable to opt for the 2008 version of the citizenship questions. It has been used longer and provides more reliable and balanced questions.

In addition to USCIS resources, certain cities have organizations that offer English as a second language programs. These classes, often low-cost or free, cater to Spanish-speaking or non-English speakers preparing for the test in English.

Moreover, online study groups and non-profit organizations offer affordable resources for individuals studying for the citizenship exam. By proactively learning English, they will be well-prepared and can confidently navigate the citizenship process without any hindrances.

Is There An English Exam Exemption?

The option is available to only a selected few individuals, not everyone. It’s commonly known as the “520” or “5515” exemption, specifically targeting English language requirements. If you meet the criteria, namely being over 50 years old when applying for citizenship and holding a Green Card for a minimum of 20 years. It is called the “50-20” rule, where you are exempted from the English language component. This provision also applies to those over 55 who have held a Green Card for at least 15 years.

Under this exemption, individuals are not required to demonstrate proficiency in English to obtain citizenship, but they still need to pass the Civics exam. The unique aspect of this exemption is that you can take it in your native language.

What Happens In The Interview?

During the interview process, the focus primarily revolves around the N-400 application. It is the official form used to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization.

Many individuals inquire about the required level of English proficiency for speaking. They must review the N-400, especially the series of yes or no questions towards the end. If they can comprehend and respond to those questions, it usually indicates the necessary level of English proficiency.

The interview mainly encompasses questions related to personal information. These include residence, employment, family, and travel. These also involve any relevant criminal history that aligns with the content of the N-400 application.

What Are The Crucial Aspects With Which Most People Struggle?

The three crucial aspects applicants often discuss with attorneys are travel history, criminal history, and taxes. Travel history is significant because applicants must meet specific residency requirements to be eligible for citizenship.

Regarding criminal history, it’s best to consult an immigration lawyer if you have such a record, as they can assess your eligibility. Taxes are another crucial area where many clients face challenges. Compliance with tax obligations, including timely filing and payment, is essential.

If there are tax issues, collaborate with your attorney to review the situation and determine the best action. It is whether to proceed or temporarily pause the application process. These three areas have significance in the naturalization process and require careful attention.

It is also important to demonstrate good moral character during the naturalization process. A few examples are maintaining a history of consistent tax payments and complying with child support obligations. Having a payment plan in place can be advantageous.

Get U.S. Legal And Immigration Benefits If You Decide To Become A U.S. Citizen And Help Your Family Be Secure

These factors are considered in the N-400 application as they reflect responsible behavior. It also shows adherence to legal obligations, contributing to good moral character assessment. Once the N-400 application is successfully submitted and the naturalization process is completed, individuals can enjoy a wide range of benefits from becoming a U.S. citizen.

What Are The Benefits Of Becoming A U.S. Citizen?

The benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen include the right to vote and the ability to sponsor family members for immigration. It also allows obtaining a U.S. passport for international travel. This is just to name a few. U.S. citizens enjoy other benefits and privileges.

The Right To Vote

As a citizen, you gain the right to vote in local, state, and federal elections. It allows you to participate in decision-making and support your community. Voting gives you a say in shaping the policies and decisions that impact your community and country. It is a powerful way to express your voice and contribute to the democratic process.

Travel With Ease

Travel becomes much more convenient as a citizen. Being a citizen grants you the advantage of traveling with ease. With a U.S. passport, you can enjoy streamlined entry and exit processes, bypassing long lines and immigration queues.

This convenience applies to domestic and international travel, allowing you to move freely and efficiently. As a citizen, you have the privilege of experiencing smoother travel experiences and reduced waiting times at airports and border crossings.

Petition Family Members

One of the significant benefits of being a U.S. citizen is the ability to petition family members for immigration. As a citizen, you can sponsor certain relatives for lawful permanent residency (Green Card). It includes your spouse, parents, children, and siblings.

This benefit enables your loved ones to join you in the United States and establish a permanent home. The family-based immigration system offers opportunities to reunite with family members. It also builds stronger bonds, fostering a sense of togetherness and support within the country.

No More Renewal Of Status

As a U.S. citizen, you are free from the burden of renewing your immigration status. However, non-citizens must regularly renew visas or maintain lawful permanent resident status. Citizenship provides permanent residency and eliminates the need for renewal.

Once you become a citizen, you receive full rights as an American. It brings peace of mind and stability, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your life. You will be free from the constant concern of maintaining or renewing your immigration status.


Becoming a U.S. citizen is a significant milestone for immigrants, offering numerous compelling reasons. Citizenship grants the right to vote, enabling active participation in decision-making. Also, it allows easy family immigration sponsorship, fostering togetherness and support. With a U.S. passport, citizens enjoy streamlined travel, reducing waiting times. There is no need to renew immigration status, providing stability and peace of mind. 

Citizenship reflects a deep commitment to America’s values and people, solidifying one’s place in the nation’s diverse tapestry. Additionally, citizens enjoy the privilege of expressing their voice in shaping policies and contributing to the democratic process.

If you have additional questions about becoming a U.S. citizen, or your specific case, you can contact us at (855) 502-0555. After a brief 10-minute evaluation of your case over the phone, we will let you know what options you have. You can also follow us on our social networks so you don’t miss our weekly broadcasts on FacebookYouTube, and Twitch.

About the Author: Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch

I am the managing partner of Lincoln-Goldfinch Law. Upon graduating from the University of Texas for college and law school, I received an Equal Justice Works Fellowship in 2008, completed at American Gateways. My project served the detained families seeking asylum. After my fellowship, I entered private immigration practice. My firm offers family-based immigration, such as greencards and naturalization, deportation defense, and humanitarian cases such as asylum, U Visa, and VAWA. Everyone at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law is bilingual, has a connection to our cause, and has demonstrated a history of activism for immigrants. To us, our work is not just a job. After the pandemic we began offering bankruptcy services in addition to immigration I realized how much lack of information there is in financial literacy resources in Spanish.

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