A variety of requirements must be met in order to become citizens of the United States. Generally, US citizens can live in the United States forever and they will never be deported. US citizenship comes with several privileges and duties. Any foreign national can apply for US citizenship and become a US citizen but several US citizenship requirements must be met by the applicants who apply for US citizenship.
To obtain US citizenship, eligible foreign nationals must go through the legal process called “Naturalization”. This naturalization process involves several steps and filing applications alone may not be sufficient. This process aims at teaching the foreign nationals what it means to be an American. The first step in this process is filing an application for naturalization. Followed by that, the applicants must submit biometrics information, attend the naturalization interview, pass the tests and finally take the oath. An individual who successfully goes through the entire process alone will be granted US citizenship. Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is the USCIS form that must be filed by an immigrant who aims at obtaining US citizenship. This form, like the other USCIS forms is not simple and is quite complicated. This form cannot be filed online but the applicants can complete this form online.
- Step 1 : Determine Whether You are Eligible
Remember that, to file an application for naturalization, you need to be a Green Card holder. If you are a Green Card holder, see to that you meet the following requirements prior to filing your US citizenship application.
18 or Older Requirement : You must not be a minor and at the time of filing Form N-400, you must be above age 18.
Good Moral Character Requirement : This is one of the most important requirements as you will never be permitted to become a US citizen if you are a criminal. You must not have falsely claimed US citizenship and you must not have been criminally convicted. You must be a law abiding person and must not be a member of any criminal organization.
Continuous Residence Requirement : You must have maintained residence in America for a certain period of time. If you are the spouse of a US citizen, at the time of applying for US citizenship, you will have to establish that you have been living in America for the past three years. If you are not the spouse of a US citizen, you will have to prove that you have been living in America for the past five years. If you had remained in a foreign country for more than 6 months within the past three or five years, you cannot apply for US citizenship. That is because, a trip outside the country for longer than 6 months will break continuous residency.
Physical Presence Requirement : If you are the spouse of a US citizen and if you are applying for citizenship after three years of permanent residency, to qualify, you must have spent at least 18 months in America. Similarly, if you are applying for US citizenship, five years after becoming a permanent resident, you must establish that you have spent 30 consecutive months in America. If you hold a Green Card and if you are in the US Armed Forces, you can apply for citizenship, after 1 year of service and you need not meet the physical presence requirement.
Residence Requirement : You must have resided in the American state in which you are applying for US citizenship, for a minimum of three months. However, this requirement does not apply to the members of the US Armed Forces.
- Step 2 : Collect the Required Supporting Documents
Once you make sure that you are eligible, you must start collecting the required supporting documents and these documents will help you to establish that you are eligible for citizenship. All the applicants must submit photocopies of their permanent resident cards and two identical color photographs.
If you are applying on the basis of marriage to a US citizen, you need to submit a document to establish that your spouse is a US citizen, such as your spouse’s birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship or your spouse’s US passport. Along with that, you must submit copies of your marriage certificate, tax returns, birth certificates of children, bank accounts, leases, certified copies of the income tax forms and IRS tax return transcripts.
If you have ever been arrested, a certified copy of the complete arrest record must be submitted. Apart from the above, you may also be required to submit few other documents particular to your situation.
- Step 3 : File Form N-400
To begin the naturalization process, you must complete and file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, in accordance with the form filing instructions. You need to check whether you meet all the eligibility requirements, prior to filing your US citizenship application and this form must accompany the above mentioned supporting documents. You can complete this form online and mail the completed form to the USCIS. $680 is the Form N-400 filing fee and this fee must be sent along with your naturalization application. In case, your supporting documents are not in English, you must submit certified translations.
- Step 4 : Attend Your Biometrics Appointment
After you mail your completed Form N-400, to the USCIS, the USCIS, after reviewing your petition will send you an application receipt notice. Followed by that, you will be sent a biometrics appointment notice to be fingerprinted. You must not miss this appointment and only after you submit biometrics information, you will be called for the naturalization interview.
- Step 5 : Attend Your Naturalization Interview
Your ability to speak English and your knowledge of the US history will be tested during the US citizenship test. A variety of study materials are available and you can use those materials to prepare for this test. You need to prove that you are good in English and you must pass the civics test by answering 6 out ten questions correctly. Only if you get through, you will be able to move to the next step.
- Step 6 : Pledge the Oath of Allegiance
This is the final step and the USCIS will either approve or deny your US citizenship application, based on the information that you have provided. If your petition is approved, you will be notified about your naturalization oath ceremony and you will have to take the Oath of Allegiance to America, in that formal ceremony. You will become a citizen of the United States as soon as you take the Oath and soon after you take the Oath of Allegiance, you will be granted a Certificate of Naturalization.