Applying for US Citizenship: Everything You Need to Know
Applying for US citizenship is a big decision that requires the applicant to follow certain rules and meet certain requirements. 7 min read
Applying for US Citizenship
Applying for US citizenship is a big decision that requires the applicant to follow certain rules and meet certain requirements. The decision to become a citizen of the United States affords an approved applicant the same rights as a natural born citizen, excepting election and affirmation to the role of Executive (i.e., President).
Application for U.S. citizenship is a process that if approved, ends in naturalization. Once eligible either by marriage or by permanent residency, the process for becoming a citizen is relatively expedient if the applicant has adequate command of the English language, and has sufficient education of U.S. History and Politics. Applicants preparing for citizenship application should create a materially substantial record of personal history leading to immigration, and process accompanying entry and permanent resident status (i.e., green card, marriage, work visa). If approved, U.S. citizenship offers many benefits.
Requirements for Applying for US Citizenship
Eligibility for U.S. citizenship application requires that the applicant be at least 18 years old; hold an unexpired green card; live in the country as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years, or are a spouse of a U.S. citizen; a refugee, or are in receipt of your green card by way of political asylum; and you have been physically present in the jurisdiction of the United States for at least half of five years.
Conditional residents are those who obtained permanent resident status after two years after marriage or authorization date of an investor visa. Spouses with a valid green card are eligible for citizenship after three years of marriage. In such case, to be eligible for U.S. citizenship application, no more than one year at a time should be spent outside the country; no other home has been established in another country; and have proof of residency in the state or district where the application will be filed for at least three months.
Other requirements for U.S. citizenship application are:
- Good moral character
- English fluency
- Pass a U.S. History and Government exam
Naturalized citizens must swear loyalty to the principles of the U.S. Constitution. Applicants serving in the U.S. Armed Forces during war can apply to obtain citizenship without first establishing permanent residency.
The Application and Your Immigration History
If eligible, interested applicants should:
- Complete the U.S. citizenship application via the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website
- Attach a copy of an unexpired green card
- Attach the required photos
- Submit the application fee(s)
The USCIS contacts eligible applicants with a scheduled appointment date, and instructions to fingerprinting before the interview. The agency is responsible for questioning applicants about details to their immigration. Documentation substantiating history of departure from country of origin and facts about entry to the United States will be asked by a USCIS agent. Making false statements about immigration history may lead to deportation. Avoid fraud during the USCIS application process. Delay is better than denial of a citizenship request the first time, or worse, indefinite bar from entering the country again.
90-Days Early Application Rule
The 5 Year Rule to permanent residency permits that naturalization applicants to the USCIS can apply within the 90-days before the end of limitation.
Exception to Five-Year Rule for People Married to a U.S. Citizen
Those applicants married to U.S. citizens are exempt from the 5 Year Rule. If a U.S. citizen spouse is abusive, the foreign-born spouse holding the green card can file a self-petition Form I-360. This alternative to the 5 Year Rule also exempts an applicant from the minimum three years, enabling the immigrant victim immediate access to the benefit of naturalization.
Partial Exception to Five-Year Rule for Refugees
Refugees seeking asylum in the U.S, who have obtained green cards count each year as a permanent resident would applying for naturalization.
Exception to Five-Year Rules for Spouses of U.S. Citizens in Certain Overseas Jobs
If a foreign-born spouse is applying for citizenship, and the U.S. citizen has a job requiring residency abroad, the applicant can still apply for citizenship without five years of permanent residence. According to USCIS rules, a spouse's employer must be either the U.S. government; a U.S. research institution recognized by the U.S. attorney; a U.S. firm or corporation (or a subsidiary) engaged wholly or partly in U.S. interests in foreign trade and commerce; a public international organization; or religious denomination that has an organization within the United States. In this latter circumstance, the spouse must perform ministerial, priestly or missionary functions.
Other Requirements for Citizenship May Require You to Wait Even Longer
An additional wait time to apply for U.S. citizenship may be required if an applicant has not lived in the district or state jurisdiction where the USCIS filing will done for three months or more. Applicants found to be spending more than a year at a time outside of the United States while a permanent resident or on a visa eligible for U.C. citizenship application, may be asked to fulfill this requirement before an application will be considered.
Is the applicant already a U.S. citizen?
USCIS application for U.S. citizenship may only be submitted by those who are not citizens by birth or did not acquire citizenship from their parents.
Determine eligibility to become a citizen
Not all green card holders are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. Naturalization requirements must be met for an applicant to submit the request. Check the rules to green card eligibility for citizenship application.
Prepare Application for Naturalization
Filing USCIS Form N-400, Application for Naturalization begins the request for U.S. citizenship. There are steps are involved in completing the naturalization process. The application form requires attachment of two passport style photographs and the documents to establish eligibility for citizenship.
Submit your Form N-400
US Citizenship Application Form N-400 is used for obtaining US citizenship (naturalization).
A completed Form N-400 (US Citizenship Application) is the required form and must be filed along with photos and supporting documents. An application receipt notice is issued for record. The progress of an applicant’s case can be monitored online. The National Customer Service Center provides direct phone access for inquiry about the status of an application.
USCIS will schedule a fingerprinting appointment once it approves the application and applicants will need to be present at the specified Application Support Center at the right time to get their fingerprints taken.
Naturalization Test and Interview
The naturalization interview and exam are the two most critical steps in the citizenship application process. Applicants must attend a scheduled interview and be present at the location at least 30 minutes prior to the appointment. The interview is an English proficiency test conducted by a USCIS officer. Applicants over 50 years of age are exempt from the interview English proficiency test. Applicants also take a U.S. history and government exam. Disabled naturalization applicants can request reasonable accommodations.
Receive a Decision on Form N-400
Depending on if an applicant is granted or denied citizenship, they may be required to provide additional documents for USCIS consideration of their case. A “Granted” written notice mailed to the applicant affirms naturalization. Some applicant cases are delayed with a “Continued” notice. USCIS requires additional documents to decide the outcome of continued cases. Applicants in receipt of “Denied” notice are ineligible for citizenship.
Oath of Allegiance
Approved applicants can participate in the official naturalization ceremony where a certificate of naturalization is provided the new citizen. The Oath of Allegiance is the Swearing-In Ceremony, where approved applicants are formally affirmed as citizens. The naturalization ceremony may be held on the same day of an applicant’s naturalization interview. Approved applicants not attending a naturalization are sent a separate notice of date of ceremony with direction to the location.
Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States
Applicants must fill out Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony prior to taking the Oath of Allegiance. The form includes a questionnaire. The responses the questionnaire will be reviewed by a USCIS immigration officer. Before taking the oath, immigration officers will ask the soon to-be citizens who are ready to take the oath to surrender their green cards and will then have to take the oath and pledge allegiance to the U.S. after which they will then be issued naturalization certificates.
The new citizens can make sure their names and other information are printed right on their certificates and in case there are mistakes, they can notify the USCIS officers before they leave.
Apply for U.S. Passport
The citizens can apply for U.S. passports, and they can then continue to live in the U.S. as U.S. citizens and enjoy the same rights and benefits that the other natural born citizens enjoy.
Advantages of U.S. Citizenship
U.S. Citizenship gives citizens the right to vote in federal elections; the ability to elect the leaders of the nation. A distinct advantage is the right to a U.S. passport for travel, as well as Social Security and Medicare.
Reunite your Family in the United States
Family members of U.S. Citizens are entitled to bring their family to the United States. Legal residents and U.S. citizens may petition for certain qualified relatives to immigrate to the country. Relatives approved for entry can live permanently in the country.
Obtain Citizenship for Children Born Abroad
Children born of at least one US citizen-parent, are automatically entitled to U.S. citizenship.
Ability to Travel Freely Across US Borders
A U.S. citizen, you have access to a U.S. passport and U.S. government protection from unexpected issues overseas. If you are a U.S. citizen, you are eligible for most federal jobs abroad, including appointed diplomatic officials. Naturalized citizens can also become an elected official, with exception of the Presidency, which is reserved for natural born citizens.
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