Naturalization is the process through which a foreign citizen can become a U.S. citizen.
Becoming a U.S. citizen is likely the second most desirable immigration status that immigrants would like to attain. The first desirable status almost always is becoming a lawful permanent resident (Green Card Holder).
A U.S. citizen has more benefits than a lawful permanent resident and because of that a lot of people apply for Naturalization.
The application used to apply for Naturalization is Form N-400. In the fiscal year 2018, almost 840,000 people have applied for Naturalization and almost 750,000 became U.S. citizens through Naturalization.
The agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States is called USCIS. So applications for naturalization(Form N-400’s) are handled by the USCIS.
Only if you meet the eligibility requirements you can apply for citizenship through Naturalization.
So continue reading to understand the eligibility requirements to apply for Naturalization.
What Are The Eligibility Requirements To Apply For Citizenship through Naturalization?
The most important eligibility requirement to apply for citizenship is to be a lawful permanent resident. Some cases of Naturalization might not require a person to be a lawful permanent resident (Green Card Holder) and it usually applies to people from the armed forces.
Since there are many ways to get a Green Card the actual process and the eligibility requirements for U.S. citizenship also vary based on the methods you get a Green Card.
The eligibility requirements for Naturalization given below might apply to you and few might not. If you are aware of the process and you are ready to apply for citizenship then you can try out our basic eligibility quiz for FREE.
But if you would like to read then continue reading.
These are the most important eligibility requirements:
- You should be above 18 years of age.
- You should be a lawful permanent resident(Green Card holder) for at least 5 years in most cases. You should not have taken any trips longer than six months outside the U.S during the last five years.
- You should be a lawful permanent resident for at least 3 years if your spouse has been a U.S citizen for the past three years and you should not have taken any trips outside the U.S for more than six months.
- If you are in the U.S armed force and served for at least 1 year you should be a permanent resident when you attend your citizenship test. So you might not have to be a permanent resident at the time of applying for citizenship but you need to be when taking the citizenship test.
- If you were in the U.S armed force for less than 1 year then you should be a green card holder for at least 5 years.
- If you have served in U.S armed force for more than 1 year but you have been discharged from an armed force more than six months before you apply for citizenship then you should be a green card holder for at least 5 years.
- To be eligible for naturalization you should be a person with a good moral character and with no criminal records.
- If you are a widow/widower of a U.S. citizen who died while honorably serving in the U.S. military you can apply for citizenship but at the time of citizenship interview, you should be a lawful permanent resident.
Sometimes you could be eligible under multiple categories. If you find yourself in such situations it’s best to get some legal advice or if you want to do it on your own then you need to find yourself the best option by learning more about the naturalization process.
The Naturalization Process
The following is a brief step by step process to apply for citizenship through Naturalization:
Step 1: Check Your Eligibility
As mentioned above the first step to apply for citizenship through naturalization is to check if you are eligible in the first place. Some people might already be U.S. citizens and they don’t have to apply for Naturalization.
Step 2: Prepare your Citizenship Application
If you meet all the eligibility requirements you may prepare your Form N-400 which is the form used to apply for citizenship through Naturalization. Mistakes in your application could lead to rejection. So when you consider applying for citizenship you can consider using our online software to prepare your Form N-400.
Step 3: Prepare Your Supporting Documents
After you prepare your application you need to prepare all the required supporting documents.
The documents required might vary based on your immigration status. But the most common documents are a photocopy of your Green Card, proof of your current marital status, proof of identity and if you have served in U.S armed force you need to provide your proof of military service.
Step 4: Submit your Citizenship application
When you have prepared Form N-400 and also the supporting documents then you need to submit your application to the USCIS. When filing your citizenship application you should also submit the citizenship application fee which is $725 to the USCIS. This includes a filing fee of $640 for Form N-400 and $85 for the biometrics services. The filing fee is not refundable if your application is rejected by the U.S government.
Step 5: Biometric Appointment
After you submit your application to the USCIS you will receive an appointment notice from the USCIS which will have your biometrics appointment date, time, and location.
Step 6: Citizenship Test and Interview
After your biometric test, you would receive an appointment notice for your citizenship test and interview. Citizenship test consists of an English test and a civics test. Few might be eligible to be exempt from taking an English test.
If you fail in the citizenship test and interview you might be given a second chance within 60-90 days of your first interview. If you fail for the second test USCIS will deny your application.
This citizenship test is an important step. So we have covered more about it in the article “Citizenship Test and Interview“.
Step 7: Oath of Allegiance
Oath of allegiance is the final step for your citizenship process. After your application is approved by USCIS you will receive an appointment letter for your citizenship ceremony with the date, time, and location of the event. You may be able to participate in a citizenship ceremony on the same day of your interview.
After the Oath of allegiance, you are officially a Naturalized U.S. Citizen.