What is the Naturalization Process?

A Guide to the US Naturalization Process

The journey towards becoming a United States citizen can seem complex and daunting. Yet, the naturalization process is an achievable goal for those dedicated to this path. From understanding eligibility requirements to passing the U.S. citizenship test, we’ll be with you every step of the way, providing valuable insights and practical tips.

person in a white sweater holding an American flag.

Who is Eligible for Naturalization?

Requirements for Eligibility

Lawful Permanent Residents or Green Card Holders can qualify to apply for citizenship when they have held residency for five years or three years if they are married to a US citizen, regardless of how they obtained residency.  In addition, certain members of the US Armed Forces can naturalize if they served for at least one year, or if they served for any amount of time during a period of hostility.  Please contact Bashyam Global if you were a member of the US Armed Forces and want to explore your naturalization eligibility for further information.

Physical and Continuous Presence Requirements

As stated above, most green card holders don’t qualify to apply for citizenship until he or she has held residency status for five years (or 3 through marriage to a U.S. citizen). Aside from this continuous presence of residency status, there is both a physical presence requirement, and a continuous presence requirement. An applicant for citizenship must be physically present in the United States for at least half of the 5 (or 3) year period.

Continuous presence requires an applicant for naturalization to both hold the green card status for the 5 (or 3) year period immediately preceding the application, as well as be continually present in the US.  Any absence from the U.S. of more than six months in any single trip can call into question a break of continuous presence, and creates a rebuttable presumption that the applicant’s continuous presence is broken.  Any absences from the US for more than one year and the continuous presence has broken and cannot be reestablished. As per USCIS policy, if you have any breaks of continuous presence of more than six months, you must wait four years and a day before filing for naturalization, regardless of how long you have held green card status.

Jurisdiction Requirement

USCIS requires you to reside in the state in which you are applying for at least three months before filing the application. If you have recently moved across state lines, you must wait for this time period before filing.

Good Moral Character Requirement

You must demonstrate that you are a person of Good Moral Character for the 5 (or 3) years immediately preceding the application. Good Moral Character is not exactly defined, although there is certain conduct that would lead to an automatic denial by law. Those factors include:

  • Being a habitual drunkard;
  • Having committed certain criminal acts;
  • Deriving income from illegal gambling activities;
  • Giving false testimony for the purpose of gaining immigration benefits;
  • Having spent 180 days or more in the aggregate in jail or prison;
  • Being an aggregated felon; and
  • Having participated in the persecution of others.

The above-listed factors will lead to an automatic denial of a naturalization application. However, USCIS considers your conduct in many other ways to make this determination. Have you been filing taxes as a permanent resident? Do you owe any significant amounts in back taxes? Have you been supporting your dependents through paying alimony and child support? A consultation with an immigration attorney will assist you in going through various factors to determine whether you may have a problem meeting the good moral requirement and consider waiting to file until the incident or issue is outside of the five or three-year statutory period.

English and Civics Test Requirements

One final requirement is that you can demonstrate your ability to read and write in English, as well as answer questions about the history and government of the United States. The reading and writing are elementary-level, and there are a total of 100 civics questions to study, all with the answers published in advance. You can find a practice test online as well as a study guide.  The day of your interview 10 questions from the list of 100 are selected at random.  The interviewing officer will ask the questions orally, and you must get six correct.

There are three exemptions for certain individuals from taking the English and civics tests. Those are:

  • 50 years or older and had residency status for at least 20 years
  • 55 years or older and had residency status for at least 15 years
  • 65 years or older and had residency status for at least 20 years

If you qualify for an exemption under the first two prongs, the English requirement is waived, and you may communicate to the officer through an interpreter in your native language. The civics questions can also be translated and answered in your native language. If you qualify under the third prong, the English requirement is waived, and you are given easier civics questions to study, only 20 from that list of 100.  You are still asked a maximum of 10 from that list of 20, and must get six correct. You can also use an interpreter throughout your interview.

These are the basic requirements to file for U.S. citizenship. As always, you should consult with an immigration attorney to review these factors as they apply to your individual case and learn more about the process.

If you would like to discuss your options for applying for citizenship, contact our office today!

The group of immigrants stand and raise their hand to say the pledge for naturalization purposes

Complete the N-400 Application: Documentation Required & How to Fill Out the Application

To begin your naturalization process, you’ll need to fill out Form N-400, the application for U.S. citizenship. 

Documentation Required

The following documents are typically required to accompany your N-400 application:

  • A photocopy of both sides of your current Permanent Resident Card;
  • Copy of the biographic page of your passport, as well as copies of the pages of any stamps from international travel on them;
  • For males who qualify, proof you’ve registered for the Selective Service.

Remember, every situation is different, so you may need to provide additional documentation depending on your individual circumstances. Specifically, if you are applying at the 3-year mark because you are married to a US citizen, you must provide your marriage license and proof that you are living together and in a bona fide marriage.

Filling Out the Application

Filling out the N-400 application requires careful attention to detail. Be sure to answer all questions honestly and to the best of your knowledge. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Personal Information: Fill in all fields with your personal information, including your full legal name, social security number, and date of birth.
  • Address History: List your addresses for the past five years, starting with your current address.
  • Employment History: Include your employment history for the past five years, starting with your current job.
  • Trips Outside the U.S.: Document all of your trips outside the U.S. that lasted 24 hours or more during the five or three-year statutory period

Once you’ve filled in all information, review your application thoroughly to ensure accuracy, and be sure to answer all of the eligibility questions. After you’re satisfied with your application, sign and date it at the end.

If you need assistance or have questions about completing the N-400 application, it’s recommended to consult with an immigration attorney. After the form is complete, you can proceed with the submission following the instructions provided by USCIS.

Note: This section is a general guide to completing the N-400 application and may not cover all possible scenarios. Always consult with a legal professional to get advice tailored to your specific situation.

Next, we’ll discuss the submission process and what to expect after you’ve filed your application.

What To Expect After Filing Your Application?

Once you have filed your N-400 application to become a U.S. citizen, you can expect the following steps:

Receipt of Application:

After submission, USCIS will send you a receipt notice. This document confirms that the agency has received your application and has started processing it.

Biometrics Appointment:

You may be scheduled for a biometrics appointment where your fingerprints, signature, and photographs will be captured. This data is used for the background check and to verify your identity.

Interview Notification:

After the background check, USCIS will schedule an interview. You will receive a notice detailing the date, time, and location of the interview with a USCIS officer.  Timing of the interview varies greatly by USCIS field office, with most cases interviewed within 12 months of filing, but this is subject to change.

Citizenship Interview and Exam:

At the interview, an immigration officer will review your application, verify the information you provided, and assess your knowledge of English and U.S. civics.

Decision on Your Application:

Following the interview, USCIS will issue a decision on your citizenship application. This could be a grant (approval), denial, or continuance (if more evidence is needed or if you failed the English or Civics test).

Naturalization Oath Ceremony:

If your application is approved, you will be scheduled to attend a naturalization ceremony where you will take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. After taking the oath, you will receive your Certificate of Naturalization.  You can use the Certificate to apply for a US Passport.

Remember, the timeline can vary depending on various factors like the volume of applications received by USCIS, your location, and the complexity of your individual case. You can check the status of your application online at any time through the USCIS website.

A young child holds an American flag above their head, with it waving in the wind.

Become a Naturalized Citizen with Bashyam Global Immigration Law Group

At Bashyam Global Immigration Law Group, we are deeply committed to helping you achieve your immigration goals. Our dedicated team of legal experts brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, coupled with a genuine passion for assisting clients in navigating the complex path toward U.S. citizenship. We understand that every case is unique, and we are devoted to providing personalized, comprehensive support at every step of the way. Don’t let the intricacies of the immigration process stand in the way of your dreams. Contact us today, and let us guide you on your journey to becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. Your future is our mission.

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