Applying for US citizenship is a crucial decision to take since it will considerably impact your lifestyle. This will open up a whole new world of possibilities. The process is composed of several stages, including completing and submitting Form N-400, biometrics, interview, civics and English test, and finally taking the Oath of Allegiance.
What Is Naturalization
The term defines the legal process through which a person born outside of the US can acquire US citizenship. Once you are granted permanent residency, you may enjoy the same opportunities (and responsibilities) as any US citizen.
Certain conditions must be met to qualify for the naturalization process. These are outlined in detail by the Immigration and Nationality Act. Some of the mandatory requirements include:
- Have a green card for a minimum of five years and prove ongoing residency in the US.
- Presence in the US is required for a minimum of 30 months before applying for naturalization.
- Be reasonably proficient in English.
Upon filing Form N-400, you may expect a total fee of $725. This consists of an application fee of $640 and an additional biometrics fee of $85. It is important to note that regardless if your application is accepted or rejected, the fees are non-refundable.
Duration of the Naturalization Process
The total duration of proceedings may vary greatly. Try to prepare all the documents you can beforehand to maximize efficiency. Once you have filed Form N-400 and all other required documents, the processing time is estimated to be between eight and twelve months. Since this is merely an estimation, you can hope for a shorter period, but be prepared for a longer duration as well.
Main Steps of the Naturalization Process
Naturalization is a multi-staged process. All applicants need to go through all of the main steps. However, there can be special exceptions based on set criteria. You can learn more about these exceptional circumstances at a specialized government agency or independent agencies that offer guidance with immigration procedures.
Filling out and Submitting Citizenship Form N-400
Fill out all the mandatory fields of the form correctly and truthfully. Submit it together with all the other required documents, including:
- Criminal records
- Tax records
- Proof of holding a green card
- Proof of your marital status
- Application fee payment
These supporting documents help officials decide on aspects like moral character. Therefore, they play a crucial part in their final decision.
Confirmation of Application
If Form N-400 was submitted correctly, expect to receive a confirmation of your application within two to three weeks. Officially known as Form I-797C or Notice of Action, the document can inform the applicant of several things:
- Receipt of application
- Rejection of application
- Appointment for the next stages
Make sure to save this letter, as it will be helpful throughout the naturalization process. You can use the receipt number composed out of ten digits to check the status of your application.
If you did not receive a letter of confirmation in due time, you should make an official inquiry about your case to learn more about what might have happened.
Within three to five weeks after your Form N-400 was approved by officials, expect to receive a notice to proceed to “biometrics.” This means that you need to visit a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office to get fingerprinted, your photo taken, and leave a signature sample. All this data will help the USCIS to check your identity.
The visit usually takes no longer than 30 minutes. When going for your USCIS appointment, make sure to have some identification documents to enter the building. The following options are accepted:
- Driver’s license
- Passport (or national photo identification) issued by the home country
- Photo identification card issued by the state
- Military photo identification
The Interview Stage
The naturalization interview will be conducted by a USCIS officer. Common topics and questions refer to your personal background and the application process. Make sure to prepare for your civics and English test in advance. Some exceptions can be made at these tests, so make sure to find out if you qualify for an exemption.
Taking the Oath
When you apply for US citizenship the final stage of the process is to take the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony. As with all the previous cases, you will be notified in advance about the scheduled event. At the end of the ceremony, you will receive your Certificate of Naturalization.
Some may find the bureaucratic process of naturalization overwhelming. The good news is that there are plenty of qualified agencies that offer guidance with such processes. While you will have to pay an additional fee, you will have to invest less time and energy in proceedings.