Becoming a U.S. citizen is a significant milestone that comes with numerous rights, privileges, and opportunities. Naturalization is the pathway through which eligible immigrants can make this dream a reality. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process of naturalization, from eligibility requirements to the final oath of allegiance, offering insights and tips along the way.
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Naturalization is a legal process that grants foreign nationals the opportunity to become full-fledged U.S. citizens. For those who hold lawful permanent residency, commonly known as a green card, naturalization represents the culmination of their journey to fully integrate into American society. This process allows individuals to enjoy the rights and responsibilities that come with U.S. citizenship, including the ability to vote, sponsor family members for immigration, and enjoy the security of being a U.S. citizen for life.
At its core, naturalization signifies a commitment to the principles and values upon which the United States was founded. It’s a process that not only offers immigrants a chance to become a part of the country they now call home but also serves as a testament to the diverse and inclusive nature of American society. Naturalization involves demonstrating an understanding of U.S. history, government, and values through a civics test, as well as showcasing proficiency in the English language. By meeting these requirements, individuals showcase their readiness to actively participate in their communities and contribute to the nation’s ongoing growth and prosperity.
Eligibility Requirements for Naturalization
Becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization is an exciting endeavor, but it requires meeting certain eligibility criteria. These criteria are designed to ensure that individuals seeking citizenship are prepared to fully embrace the rights and responsibilities that come with being a U.S. citizen. Here’s a breakdown of the key eligibility requirements:
- Minimum Age Requirement: Applicants must be at least 18 years old to apply for naturalization. While children of U.S. citizens born abroad are eligible for citizenship, they don’t need to go through the naturalization process.
- Lawful Permanent Residency (Green Card) Status: To apply for naturalization, you must be a lawful permanent resident of the United States. This means you hold a green card and have been living in the U.S. as a legal resident.
- Continuous Residence and Physical Presence: Applicants must have maintained continuous residence in the U.S. for at least five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen). During this time, you should not have been outside the U.S. for extended periods. Additionally, you must have been physically present in the U.S. for a specific number of days within the required period. Finally, you must have resided at your current address for at least 3 months.
- Good Moral Character: U.S. citizenship is reserved for those who demonstrate good moral character. This involves adhering to U.S. laws, avoiding criminal activities, and maintaining a positive record throughout the eligibility period.
- English Language Proficiency: While there are exceptions, most applicants must be able to read, write, and speak basic English. This proficiency ensures that new citizens can effectively communicate and engage in civic life.
- Knowledge of U.S. Government and History: Applicants are required to pass a civics test that assesses their knowledge of U.S. government, history, and values. The questions on the citizenship test ensures that new citizens understand the principles upon which the nation was founded.
- Support the Constitution: You must agree to support the Constitution of the United States as well as take an oath of allegiance to the United States.
Meeting these eligibility requirements signifies your readiness to take on the responsibilities and privileges of U.S. citizenship. As you embark on the journey to naturalization, understanding and fulfilling these criteria is a vital step toward achieving your goal of becoming a U.S. citizen.
The process of naturalization involves several steps, each designed to assess your eligibility and commitment to becoming a U.S. citizen. Here’s a comprehensive overview of the naturalization process:
Review the eligibility requirements above, including age, residency, green card status, continuous residence, good moral character, English language proficiency, and knowledge of U.S. government and history. Ensure you meet these criteria before proceeding.
Collect the necessary documents, including your green card, social security number, passport, and any additional documents required to prove your eligibility. This may include marriage certificates, court records, and evidence of continuous residence.
Complete and Submit Form N-400: Application for Naturalization
You will need to complete Form N-400. We recommend hiring an attorney from our immigration law office to assist you in filling out this form. Any mistake or misentered information can lead to longer processing time or your application being denied. We’ve helped thousands of clients become U.S. citizens while making the process smooth and easy.
Pay Filing Fee
The filing fee associated with Form N-400 is $640 plus $85 biometric fee for a total of $725. The fee covers the processing costs of your application. You do not need to pay the $85 biometric fee if you are 75 years of age or older or you are a military applicant filing under section 328 or 329 of the INA.
Receive Notice of Receipt (Form I-797C)
After USCIS receives your application, they will send you or your attorney a Form I-797C, Notice of Receipt. This notice includes a receipt number that you can use to track your application’s status online here.
Once your application is received, you will receive a notice for a biometrics appointment. Attend this appointment to have your fingerprints and photograph taken for background checks.
Attend the Naturalization Interview and Test
You will be scheduled for an interview at a USCIS office. During the interview, a USCIS officer will review your application, test your English language skills, and administer the civics test. Your attorney will help you to prepare for the interview as well as the test.
Following the interview, you will receive a decision on your application. If approved, you may receive a notice for the naturalization ceremony. If there are issues with your application, USCIS may request additional documents or schedule a follow-up interview.
Oath of Allegiance and Naturalization Ceremony
If your application is approved, you will attend a naturalization ceremony. During the ceremony, you’ll take the Oath of Allegiance, officially becoming a U.S. citizen. You will receive a Certificate of Naturalization as proof of your citizenship.
Update your records with relevant agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles, and U.S. Passport Agency, to reflect your new U.S. citizenship status.
The naturalization process is an exciting and significant journey that culminates in becoming a U.S. citizen. Following these steps and hiring an attorney at ILOLA will help ensure a smooth transition to your new citizenship status.
Benefits of U.S. Citizenship
Beyond the pride of calling the United States home, U.S. citizenship offers a range of advantages that extend to various aspects of life. Here’s a closer look at the compelling benefits that come with being a U.S. citizen:
- Voting Rights and Civic Participation: One of the foundational pillars of U.S. democracy is the right to vote. U.S. citizens have the privilege to participate in federal, state, and local elections, lending their voice to shaping policies, electing representatives, and contributing to the democratic process that drives the nation forward.
- Enhanced Travel and Mobility: U.S. citizens enjoy the ease of international travel with the security of a U.S. passport. Whether it’s for business, leisure, or family visits, holding a U.S. passport provides expedited entry and a sense of national representation while abroad.
- Family Reunification: U.S. citizens have the unique ability to sponsor family members for immigration, facilitating reunification with loved ones. This includes parents, spouses, children, and siblings, creating opportunities for shared experiences and strengthening familial bonds.
- Protection from Deportation: As a U.S. citizen, you are protected from deportation, ensuring stability and security in your residency. This protection is particularly important during times of changing immigration policies.
- Access to Government Benefits: U.S. citizens have access to a wide range of government benefits, including social security benefits, Medicare, and Medicaid. These programs provide crucial support during various life stages.
- Educational Opportunities: U.S. citizens can take advantage of federal financial aid and scholarships to pursue higher education, opening doors to a world of academic and career possibilities.
- Employment Flexibility: Citizenship offers freedom in career choices, allowing you to work in any job or industry without the constraints associated with work visas or residency statuses.
- Pathway to Public Service and Federal Jobs: U.S. citizenship unlocks opportunities to work in federal government positions and engage in public service roles that contribute to the betterment of communities and the nation as a whole.
- Civic Responsibilities and Community Involvement: U.S. citizens embrace the responsibility to serve on juries, participate in civic duties, and contribute to the greater good of society.
- Pride and Identity: Becoming a U.S. citizen is a source of pride, connecting individuals to the nation’s history, values, and shared aspirations. It signifies a commitment to the American way of life and the pursuit of the American Dream.
HIRE A NATURALIZATION ATTORNEY
It is important you speak with Los Angeles immigration attorney, Linda Lee, so she can review your situation and advise you of the best course of action to pursue. There are several paths to naturalization and Mrs. Lee is committed to providing you with excellent service, along with a creative and strong advocacy to help you achieve your dream of becoming a U.S. citizen. Contact us today.
How long does the naturalization process take?
The duration of the naturalization process can vary based on several factors, including the applicant’s individual circumstances, USCIS processing times, and potential delays. On average, the process from filing the Form N-400 application to attending the naturalization ceremony can take around 8 to 12 months. However, it’s important to note that this is just an estimate, and the actual timeline can be shorter or longer depending on various factors.
What happens if I don’t pass the English or civics test?
If you don’t pass the English or civics test during your naturalization interview, the specific steps and options available to you will depend on your individual circumstances and the discretion of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer conducting your interview. Here’s a general overview of what might happen:
Retaking the Test: In many cases, if you don’t pass one or both parts of the test, USCIS will give you an opportunity to retake the test. They will schedule a second interview for you at a later date. This gives you additional time to study and prepare for the test again.
Extended Preparation Time: If you need more time to study and prepare for the test, USCIS may allow you to reschedule your second interview for a later date. This can be beneficial if you feel that you need more time to improve your language skills or review the civics material.
Additional Questions and Study Materials: During the second interview, you might be asked the same questions again or different questions. USCIS officers have the discretion to decide which questions to ask. Additionally, you’ll have access to study materials and resources to help you prepare.
Waiver for English Language Requirement: In some cases, applicants who are 50 years old or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 20 years may be eligible for a waiver of the English language requirement. However, they still need to take the civics test in their native language.
Waiver for Medical Disability: If you have a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment that prevents you from learning English or civics, you may be eligible for a waiver. You’ll need to provide documentation from a medical professional to support your request for this waiver.
It’s important to reach out to our law office because we can guide you through the entire process so you don’t have to worry about issues that may arise.
Can I keep my original citizenship?
Yes, in many cases, it is possible to keep your original citizenship when you become a U.S. citizen. The United States recognizes dual citizenship, which means that you can hold citizenship in both the U.S. and another country simultaneously. However, whether you can maintain dual citizenship depends on the laws and regulations of your home country.
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