The Naturalization Process
Naturalization, the process of becoming a United States citizen, is not easy. Applicants must show good moral character and complete several steps while meeting various requirements and deadlines. Learning about the procedure and the deadlines before you begin will help demystify the process and make it go as smoothly as possible.
This section covers the basics of naturalization and offers more in-depth information about the various steps toward naturalization.
Qualifications for Citizenship
There are three ways to get U.S. citizenship.
- First, through birth (jus soli)
- Second, by blood (jus sanguinis)
- Third, through naturalization.
Under jus soli, a person gets American citizenship by being born in the United States. The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the "right of birthplace." By contrast, jus sanguinis confers citizenship on those born to at least one U.S. citizen parent anywhere in the world. A family member who doesn't qualify under either of these principles may seek U.S. citizenship through naturalization.
The Application for Naturalization
A foreign national may apply for naturalization with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS is a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that plays a crucial part in administering the immigration system in the United States.
The application for naturalization includes submitting the required documents, attending the naturalization interview, and taking the oath of allegiance to the United States. If USCIS approves your application, you get U.S. Citizenship. Then, you get the same rights and protections as a U.S. citizen.
Before beginning the naturalization process, you can check your eligibility through the naturalization eligibility tool available on the USCIS website. It will ask you questions to determine if you qualify for U.S. citizenship. The questions only help you check whether you can apply. The online tool does not determine if you can become a U.S. Citizen. After you submit your application for naturalization, USCIS conducts a review of your information. It will ultimately assess your eligibility for U.S. citizenship through naturalization.
The Naturalization Process
The naturalization process begins with submitting Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. This form is available online on the USCIS website. A filing fee applies, but some people may be eligible for a fee waiver of the usual costs. Also, there can be exceptions and modifications to the requirements for naturalization that qualified people can get. USCIS also provides accommodations for people with disabilities.
The Naturalization Interview and Test
The USCIS officer will ask about your background and application during the naturalization interview. There will also be a naturalization test unless you qualify for an exemption. The test has two parts: the civics test and the English test.
- During the civics test, you have to answer questions about the U.S. government and U.S. history.
- During the English test, you must show your understanding of the English language and your ability to write, read, and speak basic English.
What If I Don't Pass the Naturalization Interview and the Test?
You have two chances to take the civics and English tests and answer questions about your naturalization application in the English language. If you fail any tests during the initial interview, you can retest. They will test you again on the part you failed between 60 and 90 days from the initial interview date.
The Swearing-In Ceremony
If the USCIS approves your application for naturalization, it will schedule you to take the oath of allegiance. The swearing-in ceremony concludes the process of getting United States citizenship.
What Should I Expect At the Naturalization Ceremony?
- You will receive a notice to take an oath of allegiance to the United States. You can attend the ceremony on the same day as your naturalization interview. But, if the ceremony is unavailable, USCIS will send you a notice with the time, date, and location of the ceremony.
- Once you arrive at the site, you must check in with a USCIS officer. The officer will review your responses on Form N-445, the Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony.
- When you check in, you must return your Permanent Resident Card (green card) to USCIS. It can waive this rule if you prove during the interview that you lost the green card and tried to recover it. Or, because of your military service, you were not granted a permanent residence card. After you take your oath of allegiance, you will get your Certificate of Naturalization. You no longer need your permanent resident card.
- You will take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States during the naturalization ceremony.
- After you take the oath, USCIS will issue you the Certificate of Naturalization. Make sure you review the certificate and inform the USCIS if you see any errors before leaving the ceremony.
Failure to show good moral character may hinder your naturalization and lead to deportation or removal proceedings. Keep a clean record and seek legal advice if you have any incidents in your history.
Consult an Immigration Law Attorney
Becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization can be overwhelming. You must meet various eligibility requirements, and some rules apply differently in every case. Consult an immigration law attorney near you. They can give legal services in various areas of immigration law. They can help you better understand the rules under U.S. immigration law and the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that apply to your case. They can also guide you through the USCIS policies and give updates on your case status.
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