There are several ways in which individuals not born in the United States can become a citizen of the country. One can become a citizen through marriage, through the military, or through parents, but one could also become a citizen through naturalization if meeting certain criteria either when born or at a later date. In this article, we are going to look at the process of becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization.
Eligibility Criteria for Naturalization
To be eligible for naturalization, you must meet a specific set of criteria. These criteria are as follows (and are according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS]):
- You must be a minimum of 18 years old when you file your application
- You must have been a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. for the previous three or five years, depending on the category of naturalization you are applying under
- You must be physically present in the United States and have continuous residence
- You must have a basic understanding of English and be able to speak, read and write in it
- You must be of good moral character
- You must show a knowledge of U.S. history and an understanding of government
- You must show a loyalty to the U.S. Constitution principles
- You must take the Oath of Allegiance.
How to Apply if You are Eligible
If you have met the eligibility criteria and are ready to apply, you must complete a Form N-400, which can be done online. Applying online means you will need to create an account, and from this you will receive alerts about your case. You will also be able to see any correspondence relating to your case and can upload any required documents.
If the United States does not already hold biometrics information on you, you will be required to attend a biometrics appointment, where your fingerprints and a photograph will be taken. You will be required to pay a fee for this service.
Once the USCIS has carried out all its checks on your paperwork, you will be given an interview at a specific date and time. During the interview, you will be asked questions about the information on your Form N-400. You will also be examined on civics and English, unless you have a disability exemption. In most cases, you will be informed of the USCIS decision after your interview.
Before You Get to the Interview Stage
The above sounds very straightforward but according to the folk at immigration law firm Graham Adair (https://grahamadair.com/), applying for U.S. citizenship is anything but. The process can be long and complex, and many people need to consult with knowledgeable attorneys to ensure their cases are not delayed by missing information or errors on the paperwork.
There are certain things you should be aware of when applying for your citizenship through naturalization. For instance, you must not leave the U.S. for a period of longer than six months at any one time. If you do this as a green card holder, your application for U.S. citizenship will be denied.
If you move during the application process, you must inform USCIS so that they can ensure your file is transferred to the appropriate field office. You must have been a resident of the state where you have applied for citizenship for the previous ninety days.
Your moral character will be judged by a USCIS officer who will check to ensure that you have not committed any crimes, including DUI convictions (you may not have more than 2 DUI’s in the prior 3 or 5 years).