1. Determine If You Are Already a U.S. Citizen.
U.S. immigration laws allow for a person to derive citizenship from parents/grandparents if all statutory eligibility criteria have been satisfied. This area of law can be particularly complex because different laws will apply depending on the facts of the particular case. In the event that a person has derived citizenship, there would be no need to apply for Naturalization. The individual would instead file an N-600 application to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship.
2. If you are NOT already a U.S. Citizen, determine if you are eligible for the naturalization process.
The requirements for filing for Citizenship are:
a. Have had a Permanent Resident (Green) Card for at least five years, or for at least three years if you’re filing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen or obtained permanent residence based on an approved VAWA application
b. Physically live in the U.S. for at least half the time of permanent residence
c. Demonstrate continuous residence in the U.S. for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400 (or 3 years if filing based on the 3-year lawful permanent residence requirement)
d. Show that you have lived for at least 3 months in the state or USCIS district where you apply
e. Be a person of Good Moral Character
f. Ability to read, write, and speak English, unless you qualify for an exception
g. Be at least 18 years of age at the time of filing
h. Have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
i. Legal competence to take the citizenship oath
3. Prepare a Form N-400.
The first step in applying for naturalization is to complete the N-400 Application for Naturalization. This form can be found free of charge on the USCIS website.
The N-400 may be submitted by mail or online. Be sure to answer all questions truthfully and accurately.
4. Submit Form N-400 with the necessary documents and filing fee.
Your N-400 application must be accompanied by a copy of the front and back of your green card, at minimum. If you have been charged and/or convicted of a crime you must submit relevant court documents. In cases where the applicant is filing based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, you must provide evidence of current marital status, spouse’s U.S. citizenship status, and that you and your spouse have lived in marital union for at least 3 years (joint residence).
The filing fee as of the date of this post is $640 + $85 biometrics fee (where applicable).
5. Once the application is processed, you will obtain a biometrics appointment for fingerprints.
Naturalization applicants must undergo extensive background checks before being approved for U.S. citizenship. Your biometrics will be captured to allow processing of a background check prior to your interview being scheduled. If you have a criminal history, no matter how minor, consult with an immigration attorney before submitting your Naturalization application.
6. Attend an interview on the Form N-400
At your interview you will be required to answer questions related to your N-400 application to determine your eligibility for U.S. citizenship, and pass your naturalization exam. Your naturalization exam consists of an English reading and writing examination, and civics examination.
Exceptions to the English Portion of the Examination
If you qualify for an exception based on your age and the number of years you’ve been a permanent resident, you may have the English reading and writing portions waived but will still have to complete a civics examination in your native language.
If you are 50 or older and have been a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years, or 55 or older and have been a lawful permanent resident for at least 15 years, or 65 years old or older and a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 year, then you qualify for the English exception of the naturalization examination but will still have to take the civics exam. The good news is that you will be able to avoid the English requirement all together and have the interview and civics examination in your native language, with the help of an interpreter. Those who qualify for the 65/20 exception will have an easier version of the civics exam.
Disability Waiver to English and Civics Naturalization Examination
The English and civics requirements do not apply to naturalization applicants who are unable to comply due to a “medically determinable” physical or developmental disability or mental impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months. The regulations define medically determinable as an impairment that results from abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques.
7. Receive Decision of approval from USCIS on N-400 Form.
Your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization has been approved and you have passed your U.S. citizenship internship. Congratulations, you are one step away from becoming a U.S. citizen!
8. Receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance.
The Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. is a sworn declaration that every naturalization applicant must recite during a formal ceremony in order to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. You could be scheduled as soon as the same day you pass your interview, or you may have to wait weeks or even months before taking the oath.
9. Take Oath of Allegiance
At your oath ceremony you will swear your allegiance to the United States and receive your naturalization certificate. Once you receive this certificate, you can apply for a U.S. passport.
If you have opted to change your name, your new name will appear on your naturalization certificate and you will be able to apply for other official documents such as a Social Security card and driver’s license in this new name.
The oath ceremony usually takes place at the same location, a USCIS field office, where your naturalization interview and exam were held. If you opted to change your name, your oath ceremony will be held in a courtroom instead.
It is recommended that soon after you are sworn in as U.S. citizen you update your Social Security record to reflect your new citizenship status.
The Certificate of Naturalization will serve as proof of your citizenship, so make sure to store it in a safe place. Lost certificates are costly to replace and can take several months to receive a replacement. To request a lost certificate, you’ll need to file Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document.
If you have completed all the steps of naturalization, congratulations, on becoming a U.S. citizen!
Our legal team understands that immigration laws are constantly changing, and we are proud to use our experience and knowledge to represent our clients in the many different areas of immigration law. Our legal team is equipped and ready to devote all necessary resources, time, and attention to provide you with superior legal representation. We can help you complete your citizenship application and guide you all the way to the finish line.