Naturalization / Citizenship

What is the process for becoming an American citizen?

Unless you are a United States citizen by birth, you will have to obtain citizenship through a process known as naturalization.

What legislation regulates the naturalization process?

The stipulations on the naturalization process are found in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

What does it mean to become an American citizen?

If you have been a U.S. Permanent Resident and are ready to become a U.S. Citizen, we can help you. Being an American Citizen is the culmination of your immigration process. American Citizenship will give you the same rights that people born in the US have.

What are the requirements to apply for American citizenship?

Note: This is a general list; the specific eligibility conditions of the people will vary depending on the immigration status and the reason for the deportation process.

  1. Has been a U.S. Permanent Resident for 3 to 5 years, depending on how you became a Permanent Resident. It means to have been the holder of a green card for the corresponding period.
  2. Be over 18 years of age. There is an exception for military naturalization.
  3. Has had good moral character during their years as a Permanent Resident. Certain types of criminal conduct automatically prevent applicants from establishing good moral character and may make the applicant subject to deportation proceedings.
  4. Demonstrate continuous residence in the U.S. for 5 years at the time of application.
  5. Has lived in the U.S. while you were a Permanent Resident. The requirement is met if at least the person was physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months in the last five years as a green card holder.
  6. Have lived in the same state for at least three months prior to applying.
  7. Know how to speak and write in the English language at a satisfactory level.
  8. Participate in a naturalization interview.
  9. Civics test – Be prepared to take the U.S. government and history test.
  10. Respect and adhere to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution.
  11. Be willing to take an oath of allegiance to the U.S.
  12. You may also need to attend a biometrics appointment if requested by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). During this appointment, you will be fingerprinted and photographed, and you will need to electronically sign your name.

Note: There are certain exceptions that allow you to take the test in the Spanish language.

Note: A person may qualify for an exemption that would allow them not to have to take the test.

Note: An applicant may submit a Form N-648 (Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions) if they are unable to meet the requirements due to a physical disability or a mental impairment.

Other reasons why a person could apply for American citizenship?

  • You are a U.S. citizen living outside the country and have a child born outside the U.S.
  • You have a green card and have lived in a marital union with a U.S. citizen for at least three years and meet the rest of the requirements.
  • You are serving or have served in the U.S. military and meet the other requirements.
  • Students can apply for naturalization in their home state or where they attend school, if they are not the same. Students must still depend on their mother/father for financial support to apply in their home state.

What are the benefits of being American citizens?

  • Right to vote.
  • Priority when sponsoring family members to obtain residency.
  • Ability to obtain citizenship for your children born outside the U.S.
  • Possibility of becoming an elected official.
  • Ability to travel with a U.S. passport.
  • Complete protection against deportation.
  • Work without restrictions.
  • Eligibility for need-based government assistance such as welfare, Medicaid and food stamps, and Supplemental Security Income if you are disabled.
  • Social Security card.

Exception: They cannot serve as president of the United States.

What is the name of the application to be filled?

Begin your application with the USCIS by submitting Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

What documents must accompany the application?

  • A photocopy of both sides of your permanent resident card.
  • A check or money order for the application fee and biometric services fee (unless paying by credit card).
  • Two identical color photos, if you reside outside the U.S., with your name and alien registration number written in pencil on the back of each photo.

What other documents may be necessary?

  • A completed form showing that an attorney is acting on your behalf (your attorney will handle this for you).
  • Documents showing that you have legally changed your name, if your current legal name is different from the one on your permanent resident card.
  • Marriage certificate.
  • Evidence that your spouse has been a U.S. citizen for at least 3 years, if applicable.
  • Proof of termination of previous marriages, if applicable.
  • Documents that prove your statements about your marriage such as tax returns, leases or birth certificates of your children.
  • Proof of prior military service.
  • Criminal records that prove the dismissal of charges or records of judicial dispositions.

What does the interview process entail?

After processing your application, USCIS will contact you to schedule an interview. During your citizenship interview, the official speaking with you will ask personal questions. They are likely to ask for detailed information about your background and your application. Your interviewer will look for inconsistencies with your application or reasons why you may not be eligible. The USCIS provides a video that explains the interview and examination process.

What is the exam that the applicant must take?

When you pass the interview process, you will also take your naturalization test. There are two main parts of the U.S. citizenship test. First, the eligible applicant must demonstrate satisfactory English language proficiency: writing, speaking, and reading are assessed. Second, the applicant must take the civics portion of the exam; this will include questions about U.S. history, the government, and the Constitution.

  • Reading test: The applicant must read aloud one out of every three sentences correctly to demonstrate the ability to read in English.
  • Writing test: The applicant must write one of the three sentences correctly to demonstrate his/her ability to write in English.
  • Civics Test: The applicant will be asked up to ten questions out of a 100 question list and must correctly answer six of the ten questions to pass the civics test.

Note: You can get more information about the full test through the USCIS: https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/guides/M-685.pdf

What happens if a person cannot read, write or speak English?

You may be able to qualify for an exception if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • If you are over the age of 50 and have lived in the U.S. for at least 20 years since you became a lawful permanent resident; or,
  • If you are over 55 years old and has lived in the U.S. for at least 15 years since he became a lawful permanent resident; or,
  • If you are over 65 and have lived in the U.S. for at least 20 years since you became a lawful permanent resident, you will qualify to take an easier version of the civics test.

How long does the decision take?

After you pass your interview and exam, you will wait to find out if the USCIS approved your application. You will receive a decision immediately after your interview or within 90 days of your interview if the USCIS officer needs more information.

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