The American Citizenship Process
A person can become a citizen of the United States by birth. People who were not born in America also can become citizens of the country but they need to go through the legal American citizenship process called naturalization, to obtain US citizenship. Naturalization is the way through which immigrants can become citizens of the United States.
The naturalization process does not only stop with filing applications and there are 6 steps in the American citizenship process. The following will help you to understand the overall process and to become a US citizen.
Step 1 : American Citizenship Eligibility
Following are the eligibility requirements. Find out if you are eligible.
To obtain US citizenship, you must prove that you are a permanent resident of America. You need to prove a period of continuous residence and physical presence. You must establish that you have been living in the country for the past five years. Remember that you can file your US citizenship application only in the American state in which you have been living for the past three months.
Being a Green Card holder above age 18, you must have maintained continuous residence in the country. You must not have spent more than 6 consecutive months in a foreign country within the five year period.
If you are married to a US citizen and if you have been living in the country for the past three years with that US citizen in marital union, you need not wait for five years to apply for US citizenship. In this case, you can start the American citizenship process after three years. You must establish that you have not lived abroad within that three year period, for more than six consecutive months.
You need to be good in English and have good knowledge of the US history. You need to take the US citizenship test and pass the test.
Being a person with good moral character is mandatory. If you have a criminal background, you will not be permitted to become a US citizen.
You must be attached to the constitution of the United States and willing to defend and support the country and its constitution.
If you meet the above requirements and if you believe that you are capable of becoming a US citizen, you may move on to the next step and fill out your application for US citizenship.
Step 2 : Fill out Form N-400
Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is the official naturalization application and this form is quite complicated. You need to provide personal information and information about your background. You need to complete all the ten pages of Form N-400. Most of the questions that you will be asked during your naturalization interview will be about your application. Hence, you can easily get through your naturalization interview, if you understand and answer all the questions on Form N-400.
Step 3 : Collect the necessary documents and photographs
Your naturalization application must accompany several supporting documents. You need to establish that you are eligible for US citizenship by submitting documentary evidence. However, documents you need to send will depend on your individual situation.
Copies of your Green Card, marriage certificate, tax returns, bank accounts, divorce decrees, arrest records and copies of documents that legally changed your name, must be submitted.
USCIS will not process applications that do not accompany supporting documents. In certain cases, USCIS will require additional supporting documents if the documents that you have already sent are insufficient.
In case the supporting documents are not in English, you need to send English translations. Remember that you will have to take with you to the interview, all the original documents.
See to that you do not forget to include 2 passport-style, color photographs with your application package.
Form Filing Fee :
Your application must accompany the exact form filing fee and the fee for filing your US citizenship application is $680 and this includes the biometrics fee of $80. If you are above age 75, you need not pay the biometrics fee. The application filing fee must be paid with a check or money order.
Step 4 : Get Fingerprinted
After you file your application and after the USCIS receives it, you will be sent an application receipt notice. After that, USCIS will send you a biometrics appointment notice. This letter will tell you where you should go to have your fingerprints taken. You need to take with you to the fingerprinting location, your identification documents. Followed by that, you will have to wait until the USCIS schedules your naturalization interview.
Step 5 : Naturalization Interview
USCIS will send you a letter with information about your naturalization interview. You need to take with you to the interview, your Green Card and your passport. During the interview, you will have to answer questions about your naturalization application and your background.
If you are well prepared, you can easily get through the naturalization test. You can make use of the US Citizenship Test and Interview DVD and several other resources and prepare for the test. These resources will help you to overcome anxiety and easily get through the test.
All the questions will be in English and your answers will help the interviewing officer to determine that you are good in English. You also need to write and read out sentences in English. Followed by that, you need to take the civics test. To get through this civics test, you need to score 6 out of ten.
However, if you establish that you are unable to comply with the requirements, you will become eligible for an exception to the English and civics requirements. Similarly, seniors can request age-related exceptions.
USCIS will send you Form N-652 with information about the results of your naturalization interview, after the interview. You can move on to the next step, if your interview is successful.
Step 6 : Oath of Allegiance
If your petition is approved, you will be permitted to take the Oath of Allegiance, in a formal naturalization ceremony. You will be notified of the time and date of the ceremony, by the USCIS. You will become a US citizen, soon after you take the oath. You will then be granted a naturalization certificate with which you can live in the United States as a proud US citizen.