Acquiring Citizenship through the Naturalization Process
Lawful permanent residents of the United States may be eligible to become naturalized citizens once they have lived in the U.S. for at least five years (three years if residency was gained through marriage to a U.S. citizen). In order to take the citizenship oath in your current city, you must have lived in your current city for three months prior to applying for citizenship. Naturalized citizens have all of the same rights and privileges as U.S. born citizens.
You are eligible for Citizenship if the following apply:
- You are 18 years old or older;
- Been a permanent resident (“LPR”) for 5 years or 3 if residency was gained through a U.S. citizen spouse;
- Defined as having “good moral character”
- Criminal arrest or convictions should be disclosed to an attorney to assess potential risks;
- Have a good understanding of U.S. history and government;
- No trips of 6 months or more in a single calendar year within the last 5 years;
- Are able to write, read and speak English;
- Certain exemptions are available.
Below our naturalization and citizenship lawyer answers frequently asked questions about the naturalization process.
How long do I have to live in the U.S. before I can apply for citizenship?
LPR’S typically have to reside in the U.S. for 5 years and be at least 18 years of age in order to naturalize. If you gained residency through your U.S. citizen spouse and are still together, you may be eligible to apply for citizenship after three years.
Do I get to pick where my interview will take place?
No, your interview will be scheduled in the nearest United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) field office to your home. If you recently moved, you might want to wait before you file your application. For your local USCIS field office to have jurisdiction you must have lived in your current home for the past three months.
Tell me about the application process? What forms do I need and how much does it cost?
All eligible applicants for naturalization must properly fill out form N-400 and file it along with the proper application fee to USCIS. In addition, applicants will be required to submit necessary documents to establish one’s eligibility for citizenship.
This often includes submitting sufficient proof that you are a person of good moral character defined here. If you’ve had any arrest or convictions within the last 5 years you should consult with an attorney. An experienced attorney can assess your case and tell you if you are eligible for citizenship. In some cases, you might need a waiver for a criminal conviction. In others, the best option might be not to apply for citizenship.
The application fee for form N-400 is $640 plus an $85 biometrics (fingerprinting) fee, but applicants 75 years old or older are exempt from the biometrics fee). Fee’s may be paid by money order, personal check, or cashier’s check and must be made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
How long does it take for USCIS to process my application
This depends on where in the United States you live at the time you apply. On average, USCIS takes about 5-7 months to process your application and schedule you for your naturalization interview.
During this time, USCIS will issue a receipt notice to confirm that the application was received, and payment was collected. Next, you will receive a biometrics appointment in the mail. You must show up, on time, with your green card and a copy of the notice.
What Happens at my Biometrics Appointment?
During this appointment, your fingerprints will be captured so USCIS can run a security and criminal background check. Most of the time, the office where your biometrics appointment is held is also the office where your naturalization interview will be conducted.
As long as the N400 was properly filled out and all necessary documents were submitted, USCIS will schedule you for your naturalization interview. In certain cases, USCIS may issue a request for evidence if a key piece of evidence or document is missing.
What happens at the naturalization interview?
At the interview, you have the right to be accompanied by a lawyer. In certain cases, depending on the applicant’s age and amount of time as a resident, some may be exempt from the English requirement and may bring an interpreter to the interview.
During the interview, the USCIS officer will thoroughly review the application with the applicant to both ensure the accuracy of the information and test the applicant’s ability to speak and understand English.
During this portion of the interview, the applicant should be prepared to address any criminal arrest or convictions and any other eligibility issues. Once the officer has finished reviewing the application they will move on to the history and civics exam. This exam consists of three key parts.
Tell Me About the test I have to pass
First, your ability to write in English will be tested. The USCIS officer will read a sentence to you out loud and you will be instructed to write it down. Next, your ability to read in English will be tested as the officer will point to a simple sentence and ask you to read it aloud. Finally, you will be given a history and civics exam
At the end of your interview, the officer will let you know if you passed, failed. If you failed a certain portion of the exams, you will be given a sheet indicating what portion you failed and must re-take. A follow-up interview will automatically be scheduled for you, a minimum of two months out, so you may have time to prepare. In certain cases, USCIS is unable to make a decision and will issue an RFE to gather additional evidence of your eligibility.
If you pass, you will be scheduled for your oath ceremony. Once you attend and take the oath, you will be presented with your naturalization certificate and with this, you can apply for your U.S. passport and register to vote.
Do I need a Lawyer? Contact Us
With the recent changes to immigration policy, Naturalization petitions are taking longer to process. Not only can we help you identify what applications and documents you will need, but we will also prepare the forms for you and aid you in gathering all necessary documents. We will then assemble the filing along with all necessary documents and filing fees and we will mail it out to USCIS. While the application is pending, we will be here to answer any of your questions or concerns that may come up. If USCIS issues an RFE we will work with you to respond to the RFE as quickly as possible. We will also thoroughly prepare the applicant for their interview with immigration which will ultimately determine whether they will be granted citizenship or not.