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How Do I Become a U.S. Citizen?

Citizenship in the United States comes with several rights, benefits, and privileges. These include the ability to vote, the right to a United States passport, and the protection against deportation. For those who were born a citizen of another country, the process of becoming a U.S. citizen involves naturalization. Unfortunately, the path to naturalization can be lengthy and complicated. To make things easier for you, we have prepared a detailed guide on the steps to becoming a U.S. citizen by naturalization.

1. Meet the General Requirements for Eligibility

To apply for naturalization and become a U.S. citizen, here are the basic eligibility requirements you need to satisfy:

  • Permanent residency: You must have had your green card for five years before applying for naturalization. You must also show that you have resided in the United States for a minimum of five years (unless you are married to a U.S. citizen where the minimum is three years).
  • Age: There is a minimum age of 18 required for filing.
  • Physical presence: You must have spent at least 30 months physically in the United States during your five years as a permanent resident. Also, you’ll be ineligible if you have had any trip outside of the United States that has lasted longer than a year.
  • Local residency: You must apply in the state or district where you presently live, and you must have lived there for a minimum of three months before applying.
  • English language: Basic English skills in reading, writing, and speaking will be required for your application.
  • Civics knowledge: You must also demonstrate that you have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government.
  • Good moral character: You must have complied with all U.S. laws during your time as a permanent resident.

2. Prepare and File USCIS Form N-400

After you’ve determined your eligibility, you’ll need to submit some documents to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Filling out the N-400 is the first step in the procedure. In terms of length and complexity, this is among the most difficult USCIS applications to complete. There are numerous supporting documents involved as well.

Here are the ways you can file your application:

Filing Online

You must first register for a USCIS online account before filing your application. After you’ve made your account, your application, all supporting paperwork, and fees must be submitted electronically. By filing online, you’ll be able to see the latest status updates and your entire case history. It also allows you to contact USCIS in a secure and direct way and respond to additional document requests.

Filing by Paper

Alternatively, you can complete and sign a physical application and send it to the USCIS with your required documents and filing fee. However, filing via paper can take a long time, especially if extra paperwork is needed.

3. Attend Biometrics Appointment

As part of your application, you’ll need to provide your fingerprints, pictures, and signatures. You’ll be given a day and location where you’ll be fingerprinted. Your biometrics will be submitted to the FBI and other relevant databases to run them through a background check. The goal is to ensure that you’re not guilty of any crimes that would disqualify you from becoming a U.S. citizen.

4. Attend Citizenship Interview

An interview will be scheduled for you a few weeks following your biometrics appointment. The date and place of your interview will be provided to you in a letter by the USCIS. Your appointment can be rescheduled if the date does not work for you. Unfortunately, this could be a few months down the road.

You will meet with a USCIS official at the interview to go over your application and answer any questions they may have. It is the job of the USCIS officer to determine if you are eligible to become a naturalized American citizen during the interview.

5. Take the Citizenship Test

Usually, the citizenship exam and interview are arranged on the same day. After a successful interview, you will be required to take English and U.S. history exams. If you are taking the English language portion of the exam, you will be required to read aloud and write a sentence in English. To pass the history exam, you must correctly answer at least six of the ten questions.

There is no need to retake both the English and civics tests if you fail, only the portion you did not pass. Just remember that retaking the test could extend your application process for up to two months.

6. Attend the Naturalization Ceremony

You will receive a letter scheduling your naturalization ceremony after you have passed the citizenship interview and test. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ve become a full-fledged citizen. You must continue maintaining your naturalization eligibility after receiving your letter. You could lose your eligibility if you were arrested for a major felony or moved to another country before the oath ceremony.

During the naturalization ceremony, you will take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. Then you’ll be granted a certificate of naturalization, proving that you’re a citizen of the United States.

The Bottomline

The process of becoming a citizen of the United States is far from straightforward. U.S. immigration laws in Minnesota are lengthy and rife with red tape, and even minor errors can add years to your wait. Although you are not required to hire an attorney when applying for U.S. citizenship, they can help you navigate the procedure and avoid mistakes.

The Osterbauer Law Firm can assist you if you need an expert immigration lawyer to help you with the process. Our attorneys are experts in U.S. immigration laws in Minnesota and can guide you through your application for naturalization.


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