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According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), if a person meets certain requirements, he or she may become a U.S. citizen either at birth or after birth.
In order to become a citizen at birth, a person must:
– Have been born in the United States or certain territories that are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States; or
– Have a parent or both parents who were citizens at the time of the person’s birth (if born abroad) and meet other requirements, including obtaining a Consular Report of Birth Abroad as an official record of the child’s claim to U.S. citizenship.
If you were not born in the United States or to parents who are U.S. citizens, you may be able to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization. Naturalization is a process in which a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen. In most cases, a person who wants to naturalize must first be a permanent resident (“green-card” holder). By becoming a U.S. citizen, you gain many rights that permanent residents or others do not have, such as the right to vote in elections.
Generally, in order to be eligible for naturalization you must:
- Be age 18 or older;
- Be a permanent resident for a certain amount of time: usually 5 years, but less for some individuals, including those who are married to U.S. citizens or serving in the U.S. military;
- Be a person of good moral character;
- Have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government;
- Have a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States; and
- Be able to read, write, and speak basic English. There are exceptions to this rule for someone who:
– Is 55 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 15 years; or
– Is 50 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 20 years; or
– Has a permanent physical or mental impairment that makes the individual unable to fulfill these requirements.
In order to apply for naturalization, you have to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, along with all necessary documents. For example, if you have taken any trip outside the United States that lasted 6 months or more since becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident, you will need to submit evidence that you (and your family) continued to live, work and/or keep ties to the United States during that time.
After filing Form N-400, you will receive a biometrics appointment letter from USCIS. You will need to go to the fingerprinting location and get your fingerprints taken. After completing your fingerprints appointment, you will receive an appointment for your interview.
Processing times for naturalization applications vary by location. The USCIS has announced its intentions to modernize and improve the naturalization process and to decrease the time it takes to be naturalized to an average of 6 months after the Form N-400 is filed.
Interview and Tests
Most naturalization applicants are required to take a test on:
- Civics (U.S. history and government)
During the interview at a USCIS office, you will need to answer questions about your application and background, and take the English and civics tests. Sample interview questions may concern your background; evidence supporting your case; your place and length of residence; your character; your attachment to the U.S. Constitution; and your willingness to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
During your interview, a USCIS officer will also test your ability to read, write, and speak English (unless you are exempt from the English requirements). Even if exempt from the English test, you will need to take the civics test in the language of your choice or qualify for a waiver. You will be asked up to 10 questions regarding U.S. history and government from the list of 100 questions. You must answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test. You can prepare for both tests by studying materials available on the USCIS website.
If your application for naturalization is approved on the day of your interview, a ceremony date will be scheduled for you, where you will take the Oath of Allegiance and receive your Certificate of Naturalization. In some cases you may be able to take the Oath on the day of your interview.
If you fail one or both of the tests, the USCIS will schedule you to come back for another interview, usually within 60-90 days of the first interview. At that time, you will be tested again. If you fail one or both tests again, your application will be denied. The USCIS may also request additional documents in your case. If you do not provide the requested documents, your application will be denied.
The USCIS may also deny your application. (For example, your application may be denied if the USCIS discovers that you have lied on your application and/or during your interview, or that you have not fully disclosed information about your criminal records.) In this case you will receive a denial letter explaining why your application was denied. If you feel that USCIS was wrong to deny you citizenship, you may request a hearing with a USCIS officer within 30 days after you receive a denial letter. If, after an appeal hearing with USCIS, you still believe you have been wrongly denied naturalization, you may file a petition for a new review of your application in U.S. District Court. In some cases, if the USCIS denies your application, you may reapply for naturalization. If you are denied because you failed the English or civics test, you may reapply whenever you believe you have learned enough English or civics to pass both tests.
Attorneys at I.S. Law Firm have helped many permanent residents become U.S. citizens. If you are interested in applying for naturalization, please contact us at +1-703-527-1779 or via e-mail: [email protected].