Taking the Right Steps Central to U.S. Citizenship Process

The U.S. citizenship process entails a number of steps that move individuals from foreign national status, then to legal permanent residence and finally to naturalization. Immigration Direct lets you tap into expert guidance in working with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and taking the appropriate steps to provide the most efficient and economic approach in achieving the goal of naturalized citizenship.

Determine if you’re already a U.S. citizen

The place to start in reaching the goal of U.S. citizenship is making the appropriate determination on current citizenship status. Individuals generally hold U.S. citizenship when they are born within the United States, born within a U.S. territory, or born outside the United States to U.S. citizen parents. In addition, minor children can derive U.S. citizenship, or children can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship, based on the naturalized citizenship of one or both parents.

Immigration Direct software walks you through Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship and / or Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certification to help you determine if you already have U.S. citizenship.

Determine if you meet the eligibility requirements to become a U.S. citizen

Along with other eligibility requirements, foreign nationals who are at least 18-years-old generally qualify for naturalization after at least 5 years of holding permanent resident status. For individuals who are married to a U.S. citizen, the permanent resident status requirement drops to only 3 years of permanent residence.

Prepare Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

After meeting the permanent resident and other eligibility requirements for becoming a U.S. citizen, Immigration Direct provides resources to you in filling out Form N-400, Application for Naturalization along with providing guidance around the kind of supporting documentation you’re required to submit– things like passport-style photos for those who live outside the United States and other documents showing your eligibility.

Submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

Once you’ve completed your Form N-400 and assembled the required documentation, you’ll submit the paperwork, supporting documentation and required fees. Among the required documents, you’ll include:

  • Form N-400 and any biometric service fees, if applicable
  • Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, applicable to individuals seeking an exception to the English and / or civics requirement for naturalization due to a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment
  • 2 passport-style photos for individuals living outside the United States
  • Any additional supporting evidence to document your eligibility for naturalization

During the naturalization interview, USCIS officers ask about the information provided on your N-400.

Go to the biometrics appointment, if applicable

USCIS sends a notice with the date, time and location for your biometrics appointment  For naturalization applicants over the age of 14, USCIS requires photos and fingerprints as part of a criminal background check conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI.)

Once you’ve completed the biometrics appointment, USCIS schedules a date, time and location for the interview portion of the U.S. citizenship process.

Attend and complete the interview

After completing the preliminary steps of the U.S. citizenship process, officials send an appointment notice with an assigned date and time where you’ll report for the scheduled interview. Attending the appointment at your assigned date and time with your appointment notice in hand aids in making this interview portion of the process run smoothly.

It’s important to note that missing an interview appointment adds several months to the naturalization process. However, if missing the appointment is unavoidable, contact your assigned office as soon as possible to request rescheduling. It’s also important to note that individuals must notify USCIS officials within 10 days of your relocation about a change of address after filing Form N-400. In this situation, Immigration Direct helps you file Form AR-11, Change of Address.

At the interview, you’ll meet with a USCIS officer where you’ll answer questions about the Form N-400 you filled out previously. You’ll also be tested on your English language skills and understanding around civics if you didn’t file Form N-648 requesting an exemption.

Usually, USCIS officers give the results on completion of the interview and testing. You’ll receive written notification.

Sometimes USCIS officers are unable to make a decision on your Form N-400 application on the same day as your naturalization interview. In these instances, the USCIS officer will continue your case, which might include a request for additional evidence or a request for a second interview.

In cases where the USCIS officer continues an application, it’s usually because the applicant fails the English and / or civics testing. In these cases, the USCIS officer schedules an interview slated for 60-90 days later. Applicants returning for a second interview only retest on the failed portion of the test. Failing the testing a second time results in denial of the Form N-400.

Another possible reason for a continuance of your application centers on a USCIS officer’s request that you provide additional documents or evidence with your application. In these cases, you’ll receive Form N-14, Request for Additional Information, Documents or Forms. In these cases, you’re required to provide the additional documentation in order to continue the naturalization process.

Finally, USCIS officers will not move forward with naturalization requests if you file the wrong documentation.

In cases where USCIS officers deny approval of Form N-400, applicants can appeal the decision by filing Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings within 30 days of the Form N-400 decision date. If the hearing request is filed outside the 30-day timeframe, the Form N-400 denial becomes final.

Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States

Very often, the opportunity to take the Oath of Allegiance is available on the same day as your interview.

In cases where the oath ceremony isn’t offered on the same day as completion of your interview, you’ll receive Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony from USCIS through the mail with the location, date and time of a ceremony.

If scheduling doesn’t work for you, notify your local USCIS office using Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony. Include a letter explaining the conflict and request rescheduling.

You aren’t a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony, which is administered by USCIS at an administrative ceremony or by a judge in a judicial ceremony. A court holds exclusive authority to conduct the ceremonies in certain USCIS districts.

Form N-445 includes a questionnaire. When you check in at the USCIS location, an officer reviews your form responses, and you’ll also turn in your Permanent Resident Card.

After taking the Oath of Allegiance, you’ll receive your Certificate of Naturalization. Be sure to review it for accuracy, and notify officers of any errors on the certificate before you leave the ceremony site.

Understand the rights and responsibilities of all U.S. citizens

U.S. citizenship accounts for a range of rights and responsibilities applicable to both natural- and foreign-born individuals. Americans of all stripes are expected to exercise, honor and respect those values so important to ensuring the continued vitality of U.S. democracy.

While individual freedoms and the guarantee of equal protections under the law are among the most highly regarded benefits of U.S. citizenship, another element of citizenship includes patriotic responsibilities. These include the support and defense of the U.S. Constitution, participation in the democratic process and timely payment of income and other taxes to federal, state and local authorities.

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