The U.S. citizenship process is a long one and can be quite complicated. We’ve broken it down into eight easy-to-follow steps including detailed how-to explanations of the requirements, application process, interview and test.
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There are basically two ways to qualify for U.S. citizenship. Children of U.S. citizens may qualify for citizenship automatically. If one or both of your parents are U.S. citizens, you should first check to see if you qualify for “citizenship through parents.” This article focuses on citizenship through the naturalization process, in which case you must first spend several years living in the U.S. as a permanent resident (green card holder).
Step 1: Check if you meet the U.S. citizenship requirements
To qualify for citizenship through naturalization you must meet nine basic requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing your application, Form N-400.
- Be a permanent resident (have a green card) for at least 5 years. Note that this requirement may be less if you are married to a U.S. citizen or if you served in the U.S. military.
- Show that you have lived for at least 3 months in the state or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) district where you apply.
- Demonstrate continuous residence in the U.S. for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400.
- Show that you have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400.
- Be able to read, write and speak basic English.
- Have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
- Be a person of good moral character.
- Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution.
Step 2: Complete the application for Citizenship
The application for U.S. citizenship, Form N-400, is administered by the USCIS. This is the longest and one of the most expensive USCIS applications with a length of 38 pages (including instructions) and a filing fee of $725 (including biometrics). The application itself is 20 pages long with questions relating to your:
- Eligibility for citizenship
- Current and past residences
- Family history
- Work history
- Biographic information
- Employment history
- Education history
- Time spent outside of the U.S. during your permanent residency
- Marital history
- Questions relating to your moral character
Beyond the application there are 18 pages of instructions which you should read carefully as they affect how you should answer questions. In some cases, you may need to omit certain questions. It can be confusing.
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Step 3: Prepare your N-400 application package & send to the USCIS
Beyond the N-400 application, you will also have to submit supporting documentation and the filing fee to the USCIS.
The USCIS requires that you submit the following documents with your application:
- A photocopy of both sides of your green card
- A check or money order for the application fee ($725 for most applicants). You may also pay using a credit card but will need to include an additional form, the G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transaction.
- Two passport-style photographs
There is also a long list of documents you should send, but only in certain circumstances. This can be overwhelming to sift through. USCitizenship.info provides customized filing instructions so you know exactly which documents to send to the USCIS.
Once your application package is complete, send it to the USCIS. Where you send your application depends on where you live. Check the USCIS website for the most up to date information.
Step 4: Go to your biometrics appointment
Most applicants are required to attend a biometrics appointment. This is where you will be fingerprinted and photographed so that the USCIS can conduct an FBI background check. After you submit your application, the USCIS will send you a biometrics appointment notice with the date, time and location of your appointment.
Step 5: Attend your citizenship interview
After you complete your biometrics appointment, you will be sent an appointment notice for your citizenship interview. This is one of the final steps of the process. Here you will be interviewed for a few reasons including to check the accuracy of the information you provided on your application. You will also be tested on your English language ability and your knowledge of U.S. civics.
Step 6: Pass the U.S. citizenship test
The U.S. citizenship test includes an English language portion and a civics portion.
The English test includes a speaking, writing and reading portion. Throughout the interview the officer is testing your ability to speak and comprehend basic English. The writing and reading portions require you to read and write one simple sentence.
To pass the civics test you must answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly. All questions are regarding U.S. history and government and you can study the answers beforehand, available for download from the USCIS.
Step 7: Take the Oath of Allegiance
The Oath of Allegiance is the final part of the process. After you pass the interview and test, and are approved for U.S. citizenship, you will be scheduled to take the Oath of Allegiance. You may take the oath with a group of other naturalization applicants at a citizenship ceremony, or you may take it alone. Here is a the Oath:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Step 8: Receive Your Certificate of Naturalization
After taking the Oath you will officially be a U.S. citizen! You will receive a Certificate of Naturalization as proof and now have full access to the many benefits of U.S. citizenship.