U.S. Citizenship FAQ
Are you a lawful permanent resident looking at taking the next step of acquiring U.S. Citizenship? Do not let the process overwhelm you. This article aims to answer some of the frequently asked questions that you might have when applying for U.S. citizenship.
Here, you will find key insights that will be helpful to ease some of your concerns and assist you in navigating through the process.
How can I become a United States citizen?
A person may become a U.S. citizen in two different ways:
- By birth
- Through naturalization
Who are U.S. Citizens by birth?
You may acquire or derive U.S. citizenship at birth if you were born in the United States or territories subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. An exception to this rule applies if you were born to a foreign diplomat.
In general, if you are born outside of the U.S., you may acquire U.S. citizenship by birth if you meet all of the following requirements at the time you were born:
- You were born of a U.S. citizen parent(s)
- The U.S. citizen parent met the residency or physical presence requirements in the U.S. before your birth
- You met all other requirements prescribed under the Sections 301 and 309 of the Immigration and Nationality Act
In most cases, U.S. citizen parents can file a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) to report the child's birth. The U.S. Department of State issues the CRBA before the child turns 18. It will then serve as proof of the U.S. citizenship of the child. See U.S. Citizenship Overview to learn more about becoming a U.S. citizen.
What if I was not born a U.S. Citizen, can I become one?
Yes. If you are a non-U.S. citizen at birth, you can become a U.S. citizen through naturalization. Here, the U.S. government grants U.S. citizenship to noncitizens born outside of the U.S. and do not have U.S. citizen parents.
In general, you have to file the naturalization with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS will grant you U.S. Citizenship after examining your application. The applicant should comply with all the requirements provided by the Congress. In most cases, you cannot be a naturalized U.S. citizen unless you have a lawful permanent resident (LPR) status or were lawfully admitted to the country for permanent residence.
What are the steps to naturalization?
Understanding the process of becoming a U.S. Citizen through naturalization is crucial. The following are the ten steps that you have to keep in mind when looking at applying for naturalization:
- Check you already are a U.S. citizen by birth or derivative of U.S. citizenship from your parents.
- Assess your eligibility to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization.
- Prepare your Application for Naturalization (Form N-400).
- Submit your application and pay the application fees.
- Attend your biometrics appointment. The USCIS will send you an appointment notice, which includes the date, time, and location of where you should go.
- Complete your naturalization interview. During the interview, the immigration officer will ask you questions related to your background and your application.
- Wait for the notice of decision from the USCIS. The USCIS will mail their decision to you. But you can also check the electronic notice online. The notice will either be granted, continued, or denied.
- Receive the notice to take the Oath of Allegiance. The notice will contain the date, time, and location of where to attend the oath ceremony.
- Take the Oath of Allegiance. If the USCIS approves your petition, the next step is attending the naturalization ceremony and taking an oath.
- Issuance of certificate of naturalization. The USCIS will issue your certificate of naturalization, which is the end of the process. After that, it is helpful for you to understand your rights and responsibilities as a U.S. Citizen.
To learn more about naturalization requirements, see this article by FindLaw.
What can I do if the USCIS denies my application for naturalization?
In general, if the USCIS denied your application, you should discover why. This will help you address any issues you have. You can also pursue any of the following options if they deny your application for naturalization:
- Appeal the denial of your application for naturalization by filing a Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Form N-336)
- File a new application for naturalization
- File a Motion to Reopen and Reconsider
If they deny your application for naturalization, we recommend that you seek legal advice from an immigration attorney. They can assist you in understanding the decision and looking at the best possible option, depending on your case.
How can I appeal the denial of my application for naturalization?
The appeal begins by filing Form N-366 within 30 days from the date of denial of your application. You also have to pay a filing fee along with the Form N-336. After you file everything, they will schedule you for a hearing within 180 days from the date of your appeal filing.
During the hearing, you can present additional information to help overturn the denial of your citizenship application. Included among the evidence you can present are briefs, written statements, or evidence that could help counter the denial. Note that the immigration officer will have discretion in assessing the new evidence you present and how they will determine your application.
Do I have to indicate my criminal history in my application?
Yes. It is essential to declare all types of criminal records or arrests that you had. This declaration applies regardless of whether the previous record was expunged or deleted. So, make sure to declare any of the following if it applies to your case:
- Arrests, including those by police, immigration officers, and other federal agents
- Convictions, even if they have been expunged
- Crimes you have committed, regardless of whether you were arrested or convicted
Even if you have committed a minor crime, USCIS may deny your application if you do not tell the Immigration officer about the incident and they somehow find out about it.
What are the requirements for naturalization for people married to U.S. Citizens?
The spouse of a U.S. Citizen residing in the United States may apply for naturalization based on their marriage. The general requirement for eligibility is continuous residence in the U.S. after acquiring a green card or LPR status.
Here, the noncitizen spouse should have lived in the US as a permanent resident for at least three years immediately before the filing of the naturalization application. The noncitizen spouse should also have maintained the marital union with the U.S. citizen spouse during the three years.
The following are the criteria the noncitizen spouse needs to meet to qualify for United States Citizenship:
- Eighteen years of age or older when filing for naturalization application
- Permanent resident holder or green card holder at the time of filing for naturalization application
- Living in a marital relationship with the U.S. Citizen spouse for at least three years as a permanent resident before the filing of the application
- Continuously resided in the U.S. as a permanent resident for at least three years immediately before the filing of the application
- Physically president in the U.S. for at least 18 months out of the three years before the date of filing for the application
- Lived within the USCIS district or the state with jurisdiction over the place of residence of the noncitizen at least three months before filing
- Showed proficiency in the English language, including the ability to read, speak, and write English words in ordinary usage
- Demonstrated understanding and knowledge of the fundamental principles of the U.S. government and U.S. history
- Maintained good moral character for at least three years immediately before filing and until the time of naturalization
The requirements for naturalization may differ depending on each case. For instance, some are eligible to avail of the waivers and exceptions. The spouses of members of the U.S. armed forces may also be eligible for naturalization outside of the United States. To learn more about the waivers and exemptions on eligibility requirements, you can visit this article by FindLaw.
What is the naturalization test?
During your interview, the USCIS officer will ask you questions related to your application and your background. Unless exempted, every applicant needs to take the naturalization test. The test has two parts: the civics test and the English test.
During the civics test, you have to answer questions related to U.S. history and the government.
During the English test, you have to show your understanding of the English language. For instance, your proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing basic English.
Who is exempted from taking the naturalization test?
Taking the civics and English test is a part of the naturalization process. However, there are certain cases where an applicant may be exempted from taking the test. Included among them are those who fall under the following category:
- A green card holder who is 50 or older at the time of filing and has been living in the U.S. for 20 years
- A green card holder who is 55 or older at the time of filing and has lived in the U.S. for 15 years
All applicants must take the civics test regardless of age. However, applicants 65 and older who have lived in the U.S. for at least 20 years may receive special consideration. They can take the more accessible version of the test by taking it in their native language.
Consult An Immigration Lawyer
Understanding the intricate rules of U.S. Immigration Law can be challenging. But, it is essential to remember that you can seek legal help. There are immigration attorneys who can assist you or your family members as you go through this immigration journey. They have experience providing various legal services related to immigration laws.
Whether you have concerns about your eligibility for U.S. Citizenship or want to understand the application process, having an immigration law attorney by your side can help the process run more seamlessly. FindLaw has a directory of immigration attorneys in every state. Contact them now to learn more.
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Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with the citizenship process.