Becoming a United States Citizen through Naturalization
- You are 18 or older
- You have been a Permanent Resident (Green Card holder) for at least 3 years immediately before you file, Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
- You have been living as a married couple with your U.S. citizen spouse, who has been a U.S. citizen the entire time, during the 3 years immediately before you file the N-400 application–and up until examination on the application
- You need to have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over your place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
- You must have continuous residence in the United States as a permanent resident for at least 3 years immediately before filing your application
- You must be willing and able to reside continuously within the United States from the date of your Application for Naturalization, until the time of Naturalization
- You must have been physically present in the United States, for at least 18 months out of the 3 years immediately before filing the application
- You must be able to read, write, and speak English, and have a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics)
- You must be a person of good moral character, have followed and be willing to continue to follow the Constitution of the United States, and be suited to, and desire the good order and happiness of the United States
- You meet the non-timeline requirements described above: (lived in the same jurisdiction where you will file the N-400 for 3 months before applying, you are 18 or older, a person of good moral character, able to read and write english, etc…)
- And if you meet the following slightly longer, timeline requirements:
- You have been a green card holder for at least 5 years (as opposed to 3 with marriage), before the date of filing your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
- You have had continuous residence in the U.S. as a Green Card holder for at least 5 years (again as opposed to 3 with marriage), immediately before filing your N-400
- Assuming you are eligible to Naturalize, the first step is going to be filing an N-400 Application for Naturalization. This is the application, and it will ask you certain questions to assess your eligibility for Naturalization. You will need to fill out the required fields, submit the application fee of $640 dollars, unless you qualify for a fee waiver or a reduced fee, and typically an $85 dollar “Biometrics” fee.
- After filing your application, USCIS will perform a background check. The background and security checks will involve taking your fingerprints, and also running various criminal record checks with the FBI and other agencies. To obtain your fingerprints, they will give you notice upon receiving your Naturalization application, that instructs you to to go to an appointment at an “Application Support Center,” for collection of your fingerprints, and other biometrics (such as photographs and your signature).
- The next step will be a Naturalization Examination (with a Naturalization Interview). USCIS has the authority to conduct a Naturalization interview in which they will ask you questions generally about your eligibility, and questions related to your specific application for Naturalization. The USCIS officer who conducts the interview will have the authority to place you under oath, obtain oral and written evidence from you, subpoena witnesses and to request additional evidence, and sometimes to administer the oath of allegiance. You will have the option to bring an attorney with you to this interview if you so desire. Also as part of your interview day, you will be tested on your knowledge of English and of United States history, the Constitution, and U.S. government, generally. The Interviewing officer will use your pre-interview applicant file (which will have your FBI background check in it along with other information), your interview answers, and the results of the educational exam, to ultimately determine if you’re eligible or not for Naturalization. They will give you notice on that same day, and you may ultimately find out that you are going to be a Citizen on that same day. Also possible, if there are certain deficiencies with your Naturalization eligibility, you will be informed what those are, and you may have a “Subsequent Re-examination” scheduled to give you an opportunity to overcome those deficiencies (say you fail the U.S. educational exam, for example). At the “Subsequent Re-examination,” if you are not able to overcome the problems with your application, then it will be denied and you’ll have the opportunity to appeal.
- If all goes well with your Naturalization Examination or with your Re-examination, then you should receive a favorable decision (despite the fact that the Officer will have given you notice at the end of your interview day), within 120 days after your interview. Once your application has been approved, then USCIS has some internal procedures they will subject your application to, including a “Re-verification Procedure;” where they will make sure approving your application was the right decision. This is a system of checks and balances within the USCIS, and it will be done by a different USCIS officer. Assuming everything is fine with your application pursuant to the “Re-verification Procedure,” USCIS will schedule you for a ceremony in which you will take the Oath of Allegiance.
- You will take the Oath of Allegiance at a scheduled ceremony and congratulations, you will then be a Citizen of the wonderful, and beautiful, United States of America.
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