Given the impact U.S. citizenship has had on my family, I would like to educate people and dispel myths about the naturalization process. My family’s experience with the naturalization process was very typical. Several years ago when my dad immigrated to the United States from Tamaulipas, Mexico he waited a total of 5 years as a green card holder, then applied for citizenship through the U.S Department of Homeland Security. After a total of six and a half years and large amounts of paperwork, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. For most naturalized citizens throughout the United States this experience is shared — from the ache of the paperwork to the long wait for approval. I’d like to provide more detail about each of the steps in this important process.
Naturalization in the United States:
Though this process can take several years to complete—it’s important to have an idea of what to expect.
Step 1: Determine if you’re eligible. You may be eligible for Naturalization if you are at least 18 years old and have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years (3 if you are married to a U.S citizen) and meet some of these main eligibility requirements:
- If in the past 5 years, you have not been out of the U.S for more than 30 days or taken a trip outside the U.S for more than a year.
- You’ve stayed in the state you’re applying for citizenship in for at least three months
- Can read, write, and speak Basic English.
- Know the fundamentals of U.S history and the principals of the U.S government.
- You are a person of good moral character.
- Have never deserted the U.S Armed Forces or received an exemption or discharge while an alien.
- You are willing to perform either military or civilian service for the United States if required by law.
- You support the constitution of the United States.
- You are willing to take an oath of allegiance to the United States.
Step 2: Prepare form N-400, the Naturalization Application. This is the application that will determine if you can become a citizen or not, and it is recommended to have a lawyer guide you through the process as certain errors can result in a denial or the delayed processing of the application. It is also required that you take 2 passport-style photos taken and collect the documents that show your eligibility.
Step 3: Submitting the Form N-400 Application. When submitting your application, be sure to include your photographs, documents, and fees to the USCIS. As soon as you get your receipt, you can check current processing times and the status of your application anytime you want.
Step 4: Attend the Biometrics Appointment, if applicable. The USCIS requires applicants to be fingerprinted for the purposes of conducting FBI criminal background checks. This check must be completed before you can schedule an interview.
Step 5: Complete the Interview. Once all of the processes above are complete, the USCIS will schedule an interview with you. It is very important to not miss your interview, as rescheduling can add several months to the process. At the time of the interview, expect questions on the N-400 form you completed as well as the English and civics tests (it is important to study for these).
Step 6: If your application is continued. In some cases, the USCIS officer may not be able to make a decision on your Form N-400 on the day of your interview and will continue your case. This may include a request to provide additional evidence or require a second interview. The most reasons for continuation are:
- Failing the English and/or civics test. (You may be rescheduled for another interview within 60-90 days of your first interview and you will only be retested on the areas of the tests that you failed.
- It is determined that you need to submit additional documents by giving you From N-14, Request for Additional Information, Documents or Forms. This is required to continue.
- Failing to provide the USCIS the correct documents.
Step 7: Receiving a Decision. Denied: If you are denied you will receive a letter explaining why you were denied. If you believe that they were wrong in their decision, you may request a hearing to appeal this decision. Granted: If your application is granted, CONGRATULATIONS! You are now able to participate in the oath ceremony. If you cannot attend the ceremony, you must ask for a rescheduling.
Step 8: Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. You are not a U.S citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony, and will receive your certificate once the ceremony is over.
Step 9: Understanding U.S Citizenship. Once you are a citizen, it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities. Celebrate!
The length of this process is typically 4-6 months, although there are cases that last up to 25 months. The process is quite different with each person and state. If you want an opportunity to see what these different experiences look like, subscribe to our blog and we’ll continue to share stories of different applicant’s experiences. If you are looking to apply, get more information and compare attorneys at LexSpot.com.