Naturalization is the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. Generally, you have to be a green card holder for three to five years in order to be eligible for naturalization. Once you meet the eligibility requirements, here’s what you can expect from the naturalization process.
Step 1: Application for Naturalization
The first step to becoming a U.S. citizen is to file an Application for Naturalization, or Form N-400. You will also have to pay the accompanying filing fee.
You can submit your application by filling out and mailing a paper application to the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services (USCIS) office. Another option is to complete the application online, which you can find on the USCIS website.
Here’s a quick tip: You may submit your naturalization application early—up to 90 days before reaching three or five years, depending on your filing category. While you cannot become a citizen until you’ve satisfied your full three or five-year wait time, filing early can help you get ahead in the naturalization process.
Step 2: Biometrics Appointment
Once your application is complete and has been reviewed by USCIS, the agency may send you a notice of a date, time, and location for a biometrics appointment. This is essentially an appointment with your local USCIS application support center to get your fingerprints and photographs taken. USCIS will use this information to conduct a background check on you.
Step 3: Naturalization Interview
Within a year after filing your application—depending on your circumstances—your USCIS field office will contact you to schedule a naturalization interview. The interview will take place at your nearest USCIS office.
During your naturalization interview, a USCIS officer might ask you questions about your application and background. For example, the USCIS officer might ask about:
- How long you have had your green card and how you became a resident
- Family background
- Marital history
- Any military service you have undertaken
- Trips you took abroad while holding your green card
- Immigration status
- Employment history
- Education history
- Criminal issues
- Tax issues
- Child support issues
You will need to bring certain documents to the interview, such as passports and your green card.
Step 4: The Exam
Next up is the naturalization exam, which is typically conducted in the same appointment as the interview. This two-part test will have a civics component and an English language evaluation. USCIS provides study materials to help you prepare for this ahead of time.
To be successful, applicants are expected to answer key questions about U.S. history and government and demonstrate an ability to read, write, and speak basic English. Once you pass your interview and exam, USCIS should approve your application, although sometimes delays occur or complications arise. It is possible to have the English language requirement waived in the case of permanent residents of many years or in the case of a disabled person.
Step 5: Oath of Allegiance
After your application is approved, you’ll be required to attend an Oath of Allegiance ceremony. You will receive a notice in the mail with the information about when this will take place. Once you have formally pledged your allegiance to the United States, your naturalization process will be complete.
Help from an Immigration Attorney with the Naturalization Process
If you would like assistance with any steps in the naturalization process or have encountered problems, contact an experienced immigration attorney at The Law Offices of Robert Bell, P.A. We will work to help you successfully complete the naturalization process and become a U.S. citizen. Contact us at (954) 241-4209.