Gaining U.S. citizenship is a goal shared by many people. When you become an American citizen, you obtain the right to vote, acquire a U.S. passport, apply for federal jobs, and legally stay in the country as long as you like.
To become a U.S. citizen, applicants must take the following steps:
Step 1: Determine your eligibility
U.S. green card holders or lawful permanent residents are qualified to apply for citizenship. That said, you may want to apply for a green card first before pursuing citizenship.
However, being a green card holder is not enough to be eligible for citizenship. You will also be assessed on different requirements, including your good moral character and the amount of time you’ve spent in the country as a green card holder. You will also be asked to take a test to evaluate your English proficiency and your knowledge of U.S. government and history.
Step 2: Take steps to reverse your ineligibility
If you’re currently not eligible to become a citizen, don’t panic. Perhaps you committed a minor crime in the past, which reflected in your moral records. Or maybe you spent an extended vacation outside the U.S., which broke the progression of your residence. Regardless, don’t lose hope yet.
You can simply wait it out until you’re eligible again, or take additional steps to hasten your application. Consult an immigration attorney to have a better idea of your situation. They can also advise you on the next best step.
Step 3: Fill out USCIS Form N-400
Once you’ve secured your eligibility, the next step is to file the necessary paperwork with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
You’ll have to complete Form N-400, which costs $640 to file plus an additional $85 biometrics (fingerprinting) fee. You have the option to fill out the application online or by mail with an attached copy of your green card.
Once the USCIS has received your application, you will receive an application receipt indicating the date of your biometrics appointment. Expect your receipt to arrive within two weeks from your initial submission.
Step 4: Have your biometrics captured
All applicants will undergo necessary background checks. As such, you’ll be required to supply biometrics information.
You will be given a date and address to a local Application Support Center where your fingerprints will be captured and run through the FBI. These appointments are often scheduled within a month from the date you filed your application.
Step 5: Attend a citizenship interview
A couple of weeks after your biometrics appointment, you’ll be scheduled for an interview with a UCSIC officer.
The officer will assess your N-400 and verify your answers to each question. You might also be tested on your knowledge of U.S. civics and your use of English.
Step 6: Swear allegiance
If your interviewing officer approves your application, you will be scheduled to attend an oath ceremony. This is usually held a month after the interview. You, alongside other successful applicants, will be asked to take the Oath of Allegiance in which you swear loyalty to the country.
You will also receive an official certificate proving your legal status. After you’ve been granted citizenship, take some time to understand your new rights and responsibilities.
The road to citizenship is not always easy. Your application might be rejected, and you can be asked to leave once your visa expires. In other cases, the USCIS might need more time to examine your eligibility. To ensure good results, take great care in preparing your files and be completely honest about past mistakes.