How to Become a U.S. Citizen

By James Parker
September 21, 2022

The United States is many things to many people. For some, it is a tempting land of opportunity to ascend to success and wealth. For others, the United States is a safe refuge from the torments of their home country. While many aliens may find themselves coming to the U.S., staying in the United States can be a little more complicated than initially thought.

People who legally immigrate to the United States are temporarily granted permission to stay in the country. Even if an individual is allowed to remain in the United States permanently, they do not have the full rights that someone born in the United States would have. However, there is a path for someone to transition from a resident alien to a full citizen.

1. Apply to Immigrate to the U.S.

Before you can become a U.S. citizen, you will need to apply to come to the United States. There are a number of temporary authorizations that allow immigrants to come to the United States. 

Some common types of temporary visas include student visas and temporary worker visas. These visas allow immigrants to remain in the United States for a given period of time. For individuals aiming to become U.S. citizens, certain visas are better than others. For example, a transit visa is not helpful to people seeking to become permanent residents. 

Regardless of the visa chosen, there will be some requirements that need to be met. This includes providing documentation such as health records, paying various fees, and submitting to examinations. Finally, there will be an interview process to gauge whether or not the applicant should be allowed to enter the United States. For more information about how to present yourself in the best light during an interview, check out AAL’s 7 Immigration Interview Do’s and Dont’s

2. Choose an Avenue of Acquiring Lawful Permanent Residence

Once you have applied for a temporary visa, you will need to explore which path you will choose to become a lawful permanent resident. Becoming a lawful permanent resident removes the expiration date from your visa and allows you to live in the United States forever. This is a crucial step to becoming a citizen and has four major pathways: family, work, diversity, or asylum.

The family path involves a family member sponsoring the applicant to become a lawful permanent resident. The sponsoring family member must either be a current citizen or a lawful permanent resident themselves and the applicant must be closely related to the sponsor. Usually they must either be a sibling, spouse, parent, or child of the sponsor.

The employment path allows certain classes of worker to be admitted as lawful permanent residents. The applicant usually needs to have some extraordinary capability, possess an advanced degree, or be a worker from an industry that desperately needs new employees. In any event, this pathway also usually has a sponsor in the form of the applicant’s prospective or current employer in the United States. 

The third path to becoming a lawful permanent resident is through the diversity lottery. Every year, a set number of visas are awarded to applicants from countries with historically low immigration rates to the United States. This method is not easily accomplished and does still require all of the applications, fees, and interviews of a normal visa process.

Finally, the fourth most common path to lawful permanent residence is the asylum process. Asylum will be granted to applicants who show that they face serious threat of persecution, torture, or death in their home country for political, social, or religious reasons. 

3.  Apply for Adjustment of Status

Once you have decided on your pathway for lawful permanent residence, you can apply for an adjustment of status. An adjustment of status allows the applicant to shift from their temporary visa to a lawful permanent resident. 

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an applicant can file an I-698, Application to Adjust Status from Temporary to Permanent Resident to acquire their permanent status.

4. Fulfill General Naturalization Provisions

Once someone has become a lawful permanent resident, they can begin to pursue the final stretch for citizenship: naturalization. In order to begin the naturalization process, an applicant must first fulfill a set of general naturalization provisions.

First, the applicant must be at least 18 years old before they can file for naturalization. The second requirement is that the applicant has been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years. This does not include the amount of time that the applicant is required to wait to qualify for their green card.

In addition to demonstrating that the applicant has been a permanent resident for at least five years, the applicant must also be a continuous resident for at least five years. This means that the applicant must maintain an address in the U.S. for at least five years and they cannot leave the country for longer than 180 days.

Finally, the applicant cannot have been legally removed from the country. This includes apprehension, conviction, voluntary removal, or deportation.

5. Explore and Special Naturalization Provisions

In addition to general naturalization provisions, there are some special provisions that can allow people who otherwise wouldn’t be eligible for naturalization normally. The two special categories are section A and section B.

Section A special provisions are for children subjected to battery and extreme cruelty. Section B provisions are for children of deceased members of the U.S. armed forces. While these are niche circumstances, they can help certain children become naturalized citizens.

6. Take the Test of Citizenship

Once naturalization provisions have been completed, the last impediment to citizenship is the test of citizenship. This is a two part test that consists of an English language proficiency test and a test of U.S. civics. 

The English test requires proof of fluency while the civics test requires the applicant to demonstrate knowledge of the government and history of the United States. If the applicant passes, they take the Oath of Allegiance and have officially become a U.S. citizen.

7. Find The Immigration Attorney You Need

If you are looking to immigrate to the United States, acquire a green card, and become a U.S. citizen, you will need the help of an experienced Immigration Law attorney. An Immigration Law attorney will be able to advise you and advocate on your behalf to get you the best possible outcome for your case.

Using their legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses, your Immigration Law attorney can explore your options within the immigration system, present your case in the most compelling light possible, as well as deftly navigate the complex processes of immigration bureaucracy and immigration court while advocating for your rights. The best place to find an immigration attorney is Attorney at Law.

At AAL, our nationwide network of attorneys and law firms allows us to match you with the best attorney in your area. Our attorneys have excellent case records and the legal experience that can only come from helping thousands of clients.

In addition to their legal expertise, our legal partners are also chosen for their excellent client care. We understand the stress and frustration that can come from the immigration process. That’s why our partner firms take extra steps to treat their clients with care and respect.

Don’t wait, contact AAL today for a complimentary consultation and begin your immigration journey on the right foot.  


*Disclaimer: Attorney At Law does not represent all lawyers in all states. There may be differences of opinion. It’s always advisable to consult with an attorney when in a legal situation.

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