It’s through the process of naturalization that a non-U.S. citizen is able to obtain U.S. citizenship.
In general, you must first be a permanent resident (green card holder) for a certain period of time before becoming eligible to file the U.S. citizenship form: Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
If you were not born in the U.S., it may be possible for you to become a U.S. citizen either through your parents or through naturalization as long as you can meet certain requirements.
In general, you can apply to gain citizenship through your parents if:
- You had a parent or parents who were citizens at the time of your birth
- You were under the age of 18 when one of your parents gained citizenship through naturalization
In general, you can apply to gain citizenship through naturalization if:
- You are at least 18 years old.
- You have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for the required period of time for your case.
- You can prove that you have a continuous residence (haven’t left the U.S. for a trip longer than 6 months).
- You can prove that you have a physical presence (have been inside the U.S. for at least half the time of your required period of permanent residency).
- You have been a person of good moral character (haven’t committed any serious crimes).
- You have basic knowledge of U.S. civics and history.
- You are able to read, speak and write in English.
When you become a U.S. citizen, you have to swear an oath of allegiance to the United States. The oath of allegiance is a set of promises you make, which include giving up all prior allegiance to any other nation, supporting and defending the Constitution and laws of the U.S. and serving the country when required.
You should be willing to fulfill your responsibilities as a U.S. citizen.
The processing time for U.S. citizenship applications varies depending on the field office or service center in the U.S. where you are applying. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can take anywhere from 3 months to 26 months to process your application. You’ll need to look into the processing time for Form N-400.
However long it takes, once you become naturalized you will be granted benefits that are exclusive to U.S. citizens. This includes the right to vote, the right to travel freely outside of the country with a U.S. passport and access to government jobs.
To file Form N-400, you are required to complete the form questions as accurately as possible, provide supporting evidence that can prove the information you provide on the form, and sign the form.
The form includes questions about your eligibility for citizenship, your travel history, your places of employment and any crimes you may have committed. As you complete the form, it’s important to remember that you should be as honest as possible. Lying on an immigration application can not only get your application rejected and make you lose your filing fees but it can also bring you bigger immigration troubles, such as deportation.
As of September 2018, the USCIS filing fee for Form N-400 includes the form fee of $640 and a biometric (fingerprinting) fee of $85. Bringing the total N-400 filing fee to $725.
Fees may be reduced for permanent residents who are 75 years of age or older or completely waived for certain members of the military.
Since form answers and required supporting evidence may vary depending on an applicant’s situation, the USCIS provides several pages of instructions for filing Form N-400. Incorrect answers or insufficient evidence may lead to delays and even rejection of your application, so it’s important to follow the instructions and carefully answer each question on the form.