Becoming a citizen of the United States is a dream come true for many immigrants. The naturalization process allows eligible individuals who were born abroad to gain full rights and privileges as American citizens. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency responsible for overseeing the naturalization process. In this guide, we will provide a detailed explanation of the USCIS naturalization process, including the eligibility requirements and application process, and what to expect during the interview and oath ceremony.
Eligibility Requirements for Naturalization
To be eligible to start a naturalization process, most individuals must meet the following requirements:
- Continuous Residency: The individual must have been a green card holder for at least five years, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen, and maintaining that lawful permanent resident status.
- Physical Presence: The individual must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the five-year or three-year period.
- Good Moral Character: The individual must demonstrate good moral character for the entire five-year or three-year statutory period.
- Residency and Physical Presence in a USCIS District: The individual must have resided in the USCIS district where they are applying for at least three months.
- English test and Civic Knowledge: The individual must be able to read, write, and speak basic English, and pass a civics test on U.S. history and government.
- Loyalty to the U.S.: The individual must take an oath of allegiance to the U.S. Constitution and renounce any foreign allegiance.
The Naturalization Process
The first step in the naturalization process is to complete Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. This form is available on the USCIS website to file online or to download and must be submitted along with the required filing fee and supporting documents. These documents include:
- Two passport-style photos;
- A copy of the front and back of the individual's permanent resident card;
- Proof of continuous residency and physical presence in the U.S.;
- Proof of good moral character, including tax returns for the three or five-year statutory period;
- Proof of eligibility based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, if applicable;
- Any other relevant documents, as requested by USCIS.
Once Form N-400, filing fees, and supporting documents are submitted, the USCIS office will review the application and schedule the individual for a biometrics appointment, where their fingerprints and photograph will be taken. After the biometrics appointment, USCIS will continue adjudicating the application and eventually schedule the individual for an interview, which is the next likely step you’ll see in the naturalization process.
Naturalization Interview Preparation
The naturalization interview is an opportunity for USCIS to ask the naturalization applicants questions about their application and background, as well as to test their English language ability and knowledge of U.S. history and government.
The individual should come to the citizenship interview prepared to answer questions about their Form N-400, as well as their background and personal history. The USCIS officer must be convinced of the applicant’s good moral character and their attachment to and support of the U.S. Constitution. They should also be prepared to take the Citizenship Test, consisting of the English and civic knowledge tests, which will be given during the interview.
If the individual passes the citizenship interview and the citizenship test and the USCIS officer approves the application for naturalization, USCIS will schedule the individual for the oath ceremony.
The Oath Ceremony
The oath ceremony represents the culmination of the naturalization process and is the final step in becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States. During this significant event, the individual will proudly recite the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, signifying their commitment to uphold the principles and values of their new country.
As a newly naturalized citizen, they will be granted the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that come with U.S. citizenship. It is essential for the individual to bring their permanent resident card (Green Card) and any other required documents to the ceremony, as these will be collected and replaced with a Certificate of Naturalization.
This ceremony marks not only the end of a long journey but also the beginning of a new chapter as a proud and engaged U.S. citizen.
After the Oath Ceremony
Once the individual has taken the oath of allegiance and become a United States citizen, they will receive a certificate of naturalization, which serves as legal proof of their U.S. citizenship status. It is crucial for the new citizen to store this certificate securely, as it may be required for various purposes in the future, such as obtaining a passport or proving eligibility for certain benefits.
As a newly-minted United States citizen, it is highly recommended that the individual apply for their U.S. passport as soon as possible. Possessing a passport not only provides an additional form of identification but also enables easier international travel, as it is widely recognized and accepted by most countries. Additionally, a U.S. passport can simplify the process of re-entering the United States after traveling abroad.
Taking this step also serves as an opportunity to update one's Social Security records, ensuring that the new citizen's information is accurately reflected in the Social Security Administration's system. This is important for accessing benefits and services, as well as for future employment and tax purposes.
In summary, the period following the oath ceremony marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the individual as a U.S. citizen. By obtaining a passport, safeguarding their certificate of naturalization, and updating their Social Security records, new citizens can fully embrace and enjoy the privileges and responsibilities that come with their new status.
The N-400 Form
The N-400 form is the official application form used by non-U.S. citizens to apply for naturalization and become U.S. citizens. The application must be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form addresses the following:
- Personal Information: The N-400 form asks for your personal information, including your full name, date of birth, social security number, and contact information. It also asks for details about your marital status, children, residence history, and employment history.
- Eligibility Information: The form asks for information about your eligibility for naturalization. It asks about your current immigration status, the date and place you first entered the U.S., and your periods of residence outside the U.S.
- Criminal History: The form asks about your criminal history. You must disclose all criminal history and convictions, including traffic offenses, even if they were expunged or pardoned. Failure to disclose such information could result in your application being denied.
- Biographical Information: The form asks for biographical information, including your education history, past military service, and any previous applications for immigration benefits.
- Documentation: The form asks for documentation to support your eligibility for naturalization. You must submit a copy of your permanent resident card (green card) and other documents, such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order, if applicable. You should also support documents to help establish your good moral character, such as tax returns or transcripts for the past 3-year or 5-year statutory period.
- Oath of Allegiance: The final section of the form asks questions about the oath of allegiance, which indicates your willingness to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and laws, and, among other duties, to bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law.
The naturalization test
The Naturalization Test is a crucial part of the citizenship process that evaluates applicants' understanding of U.S. history and civics, as well as their English language proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing. It is designed to ensure that aspiring citizens have a solid foundation in the principles and workings of the United States.
How much does naturalization cost?
The total cost for naturalization is $725, which consists of a $640 application fee and an $85 biometric services fee. However, fee waivers and reductions may be available for those who qualify based on income or other factors.
What are the advantages of citizenship?
Advantages of U.S. citizenship include the right to vote in federal, state, and local elections, eligibility for federal jobs and certain public benefits, protection from deportation, and the ability to travel more easily with a U.S. passport, among other benefits.
Why do I need a naturalization lawyer?
Hiring a naturalization lawyer, such as those at SimVisa, can be beneficial in navigating the complexities of immigration law, avoiding errors in the application process, and providing representation in the event of complications or legal issues. SimVisa offers Premium services for $1,950, which includes personalized support from their experienced attorneys, as well as an Automated service for $400 that guides applicants through the process with user-friendly software tools.