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8 Steps to Becoming a U.S. Citizen

Becoming a United States citizen is a milestone that carries significant privileges and responsibilities. There are four ways to become a U.S. citizen:

  1. Citizenship through birth
  2. Acquired citizenship through parents
  3. Derived citizenship through parents
  4. Citizenship through naturalization

The journey to becoming a citizen of the United States, known as naturalization, involves meeting certain residency requirements, filling out the correct paperwork, and passing a number of tests. Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to become a citizen of the U.S.

1. Determine Eligibility

Before embarking on your journey towards becoming a U.S. citizen, it is critical to determine whether you are eligible for naturalization. Knowing that you meet these criteria will save you time, effort, and resources.The key criteria include:

  • You are at least 18 years old
  • You have been a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) for at least five years, or three years if you are married to a U.S. citizen
  • You were physically present in the U.S. for at least half of that time
  • You have “good moral character,” which means adhering to a standard of behavior expected of U.S. citizens such as paying taxes and avoiding certain criminal offenses

If you meet the above requirements, you can move on to the next steps for acquiring citizenship.

2. Prepare and Submit Form N-400

Once you have decided it is time to begin the naturalization process, you must start preparing your Form N-400. Form N-400, also known as an Application for Naturalization, is the application used to apply for citizenship of the United States. It takes about 5 months to get a Form N-400 approved, and you can expect to pay a filing fee of $760.

It is crucial to complete the form completely and accurately. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will not accept incomplete applications. If you are in need of assistance in filling out the form, do not hesitate to seek the support of an experienced immigration attorney. Working with a lawyer on your Form N-400 will ensure the application is filled out correctly, preventing delays and potential issues that could slow down the process.

3. Attend the Biometrics Appointment

After your application has been processed, you will receive an appointment notice for biometric services. All naturalization applicants are required to attend a biometrics appointment with the USCIS. The purpose of the biometrics appointment is for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to conduct a thorough criminal background check. It also helps the USCIS confirm the identity of the applicant. During this appointment, your fingerprints, photograph, and signature will be collected, ensuring that all necessary security checks are completed to verify your eligibility for U.S. citizenship.

4. Receive a Notice for Your Interview

Upon completing all preliminary processes in your application process, including filling out Form N-400 and attending the biometrics appointment, it is time to attend an official interview with the USCIS. You will receive a notice with the exact location, date, and time of your interview. It is essential to report to the USCIS office on time and prepare for your interview. If you cannot make it on the scheduled date provided by the USCIS, follow the instructions on the appointment notice as soon as possible to reschedule. In any case, try your best to attend your original interview date, since rescheduling the appointment can delay the naturalization process.

5. Prepare for Your Interview

Properly preparing for your naturalization interview is a great way to increase your chances of success and reduce anxiety about the process. The interview will include an English test to assess your language proficiency. Try to practice your reading, writing, and speaking in the weeks prior to your interview. Another significant portion of the interview is the civics test, in which you will be asked a number of questions about U.S. history, government, and civic principles. Study the example questions and take practice tests to familiarize yourself with the format and content. It may also be helpful to practice common interview questions that you may be asked during your appointment.

6. Attend the Interview

When the day of your appointment finally arrives, it is important to show up on time and dress appropriately. Make sure to bring all necessary documents along with you such as your appointment notice, permanent resident card (green card), passport, state-issued identification, and a copy of your completed Form N-400. 

During the interview, listen carefully to each question and answer truthfully and concisely. Ensure that all of your answers are consistent with the information provided on your citizenship application. Do not hesitate to ask for clarification from your USCIS interviewer if you do not understand something. 

7. Get Approved

If you fail the English or civics tests, you will be scheduled to come back to the USCIS for another interview within 2-3 months of your first interview. You will only have to retake the test that you failed. If you fail the tests a second time, your application will be denied. 

Following the interview, you will be issued a written notice of decision stating whether your application was granted or denied. If your application was granted, congratulations! You can move on to the next step of the process and take the Oath of Allegiance. However, if your application is denied, rest assured that you have the opportunity to appeal the decision within 30 days of the denial. Consult with an immigration attorney to explore your options for appealing.

8. Take the Oath of Allegiance

The final step that completes the naturalization process is the meaningful act of taking the Oath of Allegiance. The Oath of Allegiance refers to the sworn declaration that all United States citizenship applicants must recite at their naturalization ceremony. It contains several important principles such as renunciation of prior allegiances, pledging to support and defend the U.S. constitution and an optional religious affirmation. (Note: while a renunciation might sound final, you can still hold dual citizenship, depending on the country) Upon raising your right hand and saying the Oath, you will officially become a U.S. citizen. 

Bottom Line

Have you always dreamed of becoming a U.S. citizen? It is time to take that first step - your future as a U.S. citizen awaits. 

Find out if you are eligible and receive personalized legal support throughout the application process by booking a consultation with an immigration lawyer at Attorney At Law.

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