Naturalization is the process whereby a foreign national can legally become a US citizen. The process to become a US citizen through naturalization is not an easy task, applicants must first meet specific criteria. Furthermore, the criteria to be naturalized include having a green card.
The green card is an identity document that allows a foreign citizen to have lawful permanent residence in the US. Although there are various types of visas through which an individual can obtain a green card, such as employment-based or family visas. Meanwhile, the process to become a US citizen through naturalization involves an applicant completing an application.
They must also attend an interview with a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer. As well as passing their basic English and civics test. For the civics test, you will cover topics like the US Constitution and US history. Once you’re done with these steps, you will then take an oath of allegiance and become a US citizen. Cool, right?
The process to become a US citizen through naturalization is only for individuals who have a sincere desire to become US citizens. These legal requirements help the immigration service to ensure this. Furthermore, there are numerous benefits of becoming a US citizen through naturalization.
In this article, we’ll delve into the process of becoming a US citizen through naturalization, as well as the difference between naturalization and acquisition of citizenship. Also, we will discuss the eligibility for naturalization, the application process, and its benefits. So, let’s get started!
Difference Between Naturalization And Acquisition Of Citizenship
The biggest difference between naturalization and the acquisition of citizenship is in the process of how you become a citizen. Naturalization is the process of applying for US citizenship by individuals that’s above the age of 18. On the other hand, the Acquisition of citizenship is for individuals who obtain citizenship through the following ways.
- If you were born in the United States or its
- If you were born to parents who are US
For instance, if an immigrant couple obtains their US citizenship through the naturalization process, they have become a US citizen. However, their child doesn’t have to go through the naturalization process (if below 18 years old). The parents will have to fill out a form for their child to be granted citizenship.
As such, the child will obtain US citizenship through their relationship with their parents. Therefore, US citizenship can be obtained either through the naturalization process or the acquisition of citizenship. As stated earlier, the major difference is that acquisition is obtained based on an individual’s relationship with US citizens, whereas naturalization requires an adult to complete a set of requirements.
The Benefits Of Obtaining US Citizenship
Below are some of the benefits of US citizenship. Scroll down!
- You are entitled to the right to In the United States, only citizens can vote in federal, state, and local elections.
- You can freely travel with a US Furthermore, there are no restrictions on the period that a US citizen can travel and remain outside the country.
- Also, you can petition for additional family members to join you in the It could be your parents, siblings, or married adult children.
- Additionally, you can apply for immigration benefits for specific members of your These include parents, minor unmarried children, and spouses, without being subject to the visa categories and the long wait times for those categories.
- Interestingly, US citizenship cannot be taken away from an individual (except in extreme situations). It offers you permanence in the US.
- You will have the ability to access certain government loans as some government loans will demand US citizenship.
- You also have the liberty to hold elected
The Responsibilities Of Naturalized US Citizens
The process of becoming a US citizen through naturalization requires that you willingly pledge your allegiance to the US. This is done by taking the Oath of Allegiance. You must also be willing to uphold and defend the Constitution of the US, as well as be willing to serve the country as a civilian, if necessary.
As a US citizen, you have the responsibility to participate in elections, serve on juries, and also serve in the military, if and when it’s required for all citizens.
Who Can Be Naturalized?
Permanent residents who have legally obtained and held their status for five years can naturalize. However, in some cases, you can also be naturalized if you’ve had your PR status for three years. In other words, some individuals can apply to naturalize if they have held their lawful permanent resident status for three years.
Such individuals are:
- Married to a US citizen (who petitioned for them) and still married to their petitioning US citizen spouse.
- Those who received their lawful permanent residency through a VAWA self-petition for certain widows and survivors of abuse who were married to US citizens.
Furthermore, if you’re a current or former member of the US military, you may qualify to apply for naturalization irrespective of when you’ve had your lawful PR, depending on the dates of your service and how you were discharged.
Eligibility For Naturalization
To apply for naturalization, there are specific eligibility requirements that you must meet. The USCIS also provides a Naturalization Eligibility tool that will help applicants determine their eligibility before they apply. Below are the requirements an applicant must meet, as stated by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Scroll down!
- Applicants must be at least 18 years of
- Applicants must also be lawful permanent residents of the US for at least five years before they can apply for naturalization.
- Applicants must be physically present in the US for at least five years at the time of
- Furthermore, applicants must be able to understand and speak
- Applicants must be of good
Once all these eligibility requirements for naturalization have been met, then you can proceed to apply. During the process to become a US citizen through naturalization, applicants will have to undergo background checks. You will also be asked to attend a biometrics appointment by the USCIS officers.
Furthermore, the biometrics appointment is part of the background check that will be conducted. If the applicant has committed certain crimes, it could affect the naturalization application. The USCIS calls these factors conditional bars. Meanwhile, the conditional bar can be triggered by certain activities, offenses, convictions, or situations within the naturalization period.
Although certain exemptions apply to specific people. For instance, an active US military service member’s spouse who has obtained a green card can live abroad with them. Living overseas will still count as continuous residence in the US. Generally, the United States government will provide a range of publications to explain the naturalization process for better understanding.
How To Apply For Naturalization
The process to become a US citizen through naturalization is a 10-step process. Before you apply to become a US Citizen, you must consider your current status and potential eligibility. Read on as we go over the 10 steps on how to file for citizenship!
1. Determine If You Are Already A Citizen
If you’re already a US citizen or if you’ve obtained citizenship from your parents, then there’s no need to file for it again.
2. Determine If You Are Eligible For US Citizenship
You must complete the Naturalization Eligibility Worksheet to check whether you meet the requirements for filing for US citizenship or not.
3. Fill Out Your Form N-400
You must fill out Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Meanwhile, you can do this online by creating a USCIS online account or file by mail. If you fill out the application on paper, ensure that you file to the correct address that corresponds with the state that you live in.
Furthermore, you must also submit documents with your Form N-400. There is a document checklist for required paperwork provided by the USCIS. The necessary evidence includes:
- A copy of your permanent residency
- Two passport photographs that meet the requirements, if you live outside of the
- A copy of your marriage certificate, if you are
- Lastly, a copy of official military orders if your naturalization application is based on your
Filling out form N-400 can be convoluted. Reach out to your naturalization attorney for assistance when filing for naturalization.
4. Submit And Pay
Submitting your N-400 to the USCIS is one of the most essential steps to file for naturalization. The filing fee for Form N-400 is $640 and the biometrics fee is $85, then the total cost of a US naturalization application is $725. You will be given a receipt notice once the USCIS receives your submission.
Furthermore, you can check the status of your application by typing your receipt number into the online status update page. The application processing time for citizenship is between 5.5 to 8 months on average, although it may vary depending on your location. Meanwhile, processing time can take up to 18 months or even more. Ensure that you check your estimated processing time by location and form on the USCIS page.
5. Biometrics Appointment
USCIS will send you information regarding the date, time, and location of your biometrics appointment. Your biometrics will include a digital signature, photographs, as well as fingerprints.
6. Interview And US Citizenship Test
The USCIS will schedule an interview for you, where an English test and a civics test will be administered. Moreover, it’s the interview that will determine your English-speaking ability.
Ensure you also do the following.
- Read aloud at the interview as you must read at least one out of three sentences correctly to pass.
- Write at least one out of three sentences The writing topics are usually about US history and civics.
Furthermore, you’ll be asked some questions during the civics test aspect of the US citizenship test interview. The test you will take depends on when you filed your form. You will either take the 2008 or 2020 version of the civics test.
- For the 2008 Civics Test: A USCIS officer will ask you a series of 10 questions, which you must answer 6 questions correctly to pass.
- For the 2020 Civics Test: A USCIS officer will ask you a series of 20 questions and you must answer 12 questions correctly to pass.
Meanwhile, the new standard is for you to either study the 2008 version or the 2020 version for the English and civics test.
7. N-400 Final Decision
There are three options you can receive from USCIS about your N-400 application for Naturalization. These options are stated below. Scroll down!
- Granted: You are approved and eligible for US
- Continued: You are eligible for citizenship but may need to send in additional Or you may have to retake the English and civics tests.
- Denied: You may be denied if you are found to be ineligible for
8. Oath Of Allegiance Notice
Once you have been approved for citizenship, you are on your way to becoming a naturalized citizen. You will receive a notice to take an Oath of Allegiance. For the ceremony, it will either be a judicial ceremony through the court or an administrative survey through USCIS. Additionally, you’ll need to fill out the questions on Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, and give it to a USCIS officer at the ceremony.
9. Naturalization Ceremony
At the ceremony, you’ll return your permanent residency card since you won’t be needing it after your ceremony. Officially, you will become a US Citizen once you take the Oath of Allegiance.
Then you will accept your Certificate of Naturalization.
10. United States Citizenship
Congratulations! Once you are a United States citizen, you will be open to a whole lot of opportunities. And also be able to exercise your rights as an American citizen which includes the right to vote, serve on a jury, apply for federal jobs, become an elected official, obtain government benefits, and much more. You will then apply for your US Passport, register to vote, and update your Social Security record soon after you receive your Certificate of Naturalization.