Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is a major decision. If a person was not born as a U.S. citizen, that person has to naturalize to become a citizen. Naturalization refers to the process through which U.S. citizenship is given to a foreign citizen or foreign national after he or she has met the requirements outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). When an individual is naturalized, he or she is essentially agreeing to accept all the responsibilities of being a U.S. citizen, including loyalty to the Constitution. In return, U.S. citizens enjoy the rights and privileges that accompany their citizenship.
A person may qualify for naturalization in the following instances:
- The individual has been a permanent resident for at least five years and meets all other eligibility requirements;
- The individual has been a permanent resident for three years or more and meets all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen;
- The individual has qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces and meet all other eligibility requirements; or
- The individual’s child may be eligible for naturalization if the individual applying on behalf of the child is already a U.S. citizen, the child was born outside the U.S., the child is currently living outside the U.S., and all of the other eligibility requirements are met.
The applicant must be 18 years of age or older. Additionally, he or she must reside in the U.S. for a continuous period before filing the naturalization application. A prolonged absence from the U.S. breaks the continuity of the alien’s residence in the U.S. for the purposes of naturalization. However, prolonged absence is unlikely to affect an individual’s status as a lawful permanent resident (LPR).
In order to apply for naturalization, an individual must file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. This is a vital part of your application. An individual must send accompanying documents with his or her completed N-400 form, including a fee payment, a photocopy of the green card, two color photos that comply with U.S. passport style, and any other documents relevant to the individual’s circumstances.
After the application is submitted, the individual is notified regarding when to appear for a personal interview at the local United Stated Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. A government officer will review the application at that time and will ask you certain questions. It is important to note that a prospective U.S. citizen must have the basic ability to read, write, and speak plain English. This requirement is tested by the immigration officer who conducts the interview. The ability to speak English is determined by the answers the individual is able to provide the officer during the interview. The ability to read and write is determined by a written examination.
The applicant must also have a basic knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of U.S history and government structure. Applicants must sit for a multiple choice test where they can display this knowledge. Additionally, applicants must have good moral character and loyalty to the principles of the U.S. Constitution.
An immigration officer will ultimately decide whether to approve or deny the application. The process of naturalization and obtaining U.S. citizenship will vary in each case according to the specific circumstances of that case.