The Basics of Naturalization
Naturalization is the legal process through which a foreign citizen or national can become a U.S. citizen. To be naturalized, applicants must first meet specific criteria. This criteria includes having a green card.
The green card allows a foreign citizen to have lawful permanent residence in the United States. Individuals may get green cards through many types of visas. These visas include employment-based or family visas.
The applicant must complete an application. Then they must attend an interview with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer and pass a basic English and civics test. The civics test covers topics like the U.S. Constitution and U.S. history. Upon completing these steps, the applicant takes an oath of allegiance and becomes a citizen.
These legal requirements help the immigration service ensure that only those people who are sincere in their desire to become U.S. citizens become naturalized. Below you'll find a more detailed look at the basics of naturalization. This article will also discuss eligibility for naturalization and the application process.
Eligibility for Naturalization
Before you can apply for naturalization, you'll need to meet specific eligibility requirements. The USCIS also provides a Naturalization Eligibility tool. This tool helps applicants determine whether they are eligible to apply.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) states that applicants for naturalization must be:
- At least 18 years of age
- A lawful permanent resident of the United States for at least five years before applying for naturalization
- Physically present in the United States for at least five years at the time of application
- Able to understand and speak English
- Of good moral character
Once you meet these eligibility requirements for naturalization, you can apply. Applicants will also undergo background checks during the naturalization process.
The USCIS officers will also ask you to attend a biometrics appointment. The biometrics appointment is a part of the background check. If the applicant committed certain crimes, it could affect the naturalization application.
The USCIS refers to these factors as "conditional bars." The conditional bar can be triggered by specific activities, offenses, convictions, or circumstances within the naturalization period.
Certain exemptions also apply to specific people. For instance, an active U.S. military service member's spouse with a green card can live abroad with them. Living overseas will still count as continuous residence in the U.S.
Completing Your Application
It's essential to complete your naturalization application accurately. For this part of the process, green card holders must:
- Get two photographs of yourself that meet immigration service requirements (pose, size, lighting, etc.)
- Collect the necessary documents. This includes proof of continuous residence and any applicable waivers.
- Send your application, documents, and filing fees to the appropriate Service Center, or file directly online
Remember that once you file your application, you must maintain continuous residence in the United States. Depending on your case, this residency will be five or three years. USCIS officers will count the period of continuous residence from the filing date until the naturalization ceremony.
U.S. Naturalization Filing Fee
The application fee for a citizenship application is around $725. This includes $85 for biometrics services. But the fee is set to increase sometime in 2023.
You must send this fee with your application. You can pay the fee with a check or a money order payable to the Department of Homeland Security or with a credit card using the USCIS form G-1450. These fees are nonrefundable regardless of the outcome of your application.
As part of the naturalization application, you'll need to be fingerprinted. For this step of the process, you will:
- Receive an appointment letter from USCIS
- Go to the fingerprint location and get your fingerprints taken
- Mail more documents if requested
This security step ensures that no fraud is perpetrated on USCIS. This process will also confirm the applicant's good moral character and continuous residence in the United States.
Being Interviewed and Tested
The next step to becoming a naturalized citizen is a naturalization interview. The following are the steps you should expect in this process:
- Receive an appointment for your interview
- Go to your local office at the specified time
- Bring identification and any relevant documents. This includes proof of residency requirements, waivers, etc.
- Answer questions about your application and your background.
- Take the English test and civics tests
Once you've completed the interview and tests, you should receive a decision about your application for naturalization.
Taking the Oath of Allegiance
You can proceed to the final step if you've passed the background check, naturalization interview, and civics tests. The last step will be taking an oath of allegiance. Expect the following process in this final stage of naturalization:
- Receive a ceremony date
- Check in at the ceremony
- Return your Permanent Resident Card
- Answer questions about what you've been doing since your interview
- Take the Oath of Allegiance
More Questions About the Basics of Naturalization in Your Case? Get Legal Help Today
Naturalizing in the United States requires a thorough understanding of the steps involved. Each case status may vary, so consulting an immigration attorney will be helpful. In some cases, certain exemptions also apply. An example is the case of active U.S. Military or armed forces personnel.
If you want to learn more about the naturalization process or get a Certificate of Citizenship, you can consult an immigration attorney near you. An immigration attorney can answer questions relating to immigration law.
They can also help you prepare for your naturalization interview and citizenship process. An immigration attorney can also help you process your certificate of naturalization or guide you in becoming a citizen of the United States.
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Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with the citizenship process.