The Naturalization Process
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
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Naturalization, the process of becoming a United States citizen, can be difficult and confusing. Applicants must complete a number of steps while meeting various requirements and deadlines. Learning about the procedure and the various deadlines before you begin will help demystify the process and make it go as smoothly as possible. This section covers the basics of naturalization as well as more in-depth information about the various steps toward obtaining proof of citizenship and naturalization requirements.
Qualifications for Citizenship
There are exceptions to many of the eligibility requirements, but the majority of applicants for citizenship must be at least 18 years old, a permanent resident of the United States, in-status as a resident, and physically present for at least five years before application, and possessing good moral character. Brief departures from the United States do not typically violate the physical presence requirement and there are some applicants who are eligible for citizenship in less than five years.
If these requirements are met, the individual may file an application for naturalization; though there are other requirements that arise later in the process worth considering.
Most applicants must read, write, and speak English, and pass a civics test. All applicants must be willing to swear their belief in the principals of the U.S. Constitution and pledge their loyalty to the country.
The Application for Naturalization
The application for citizenship must be completed and filed along with supporting documentation. The applicant should submit evidence that they have filed taxes during their time as a resident. Applicants who were required to register for the Selective Service must present evidence that they did so and those who have child support obligations should present documents showing that they are not delinquent. Failure to present these documents could result in a delay or the denial of an application.
The interview consists of a review of the application for accuracy, during which time the officer also assesses the applicant's English proficiency. Several civics questions are asked. All the possible questions are available for study and if you miss too many the first time a second chance is often offered. Any other issues with the application are also addressed, including discussion of the applicant's immigration history, arrest record, and any other relevant information. Be prepared to document and explain any points of concern.
The Swearing-In Ceremony
If your application is approved you will receive an appointment for a swearing-in ceremony. At the ceremony, a group of approved applicants participate in taking an oath and receive certificates of naturalization that confer and prove citizenship.
Learn About The Naturalization Process
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