From getting a green card to taking the U.S. citizenship test and interview, it can take quite a long time to become a U.S. citizen. Currently, it takes about 6 months to a year to get U.S. Citizenship from the time you apply. The citizenship process actually starts when you first get your US green card. This video and the article below outlines the requirements for U.S. citizenship and the time frames for each one.
Citizenship Eligibility Requirements
In most cases, you must meet the following requirements before you can file an application for U.S. citizenship:
- You must be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder).
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must show that you have been continuously present in the U.S. for at least five years. (You only need to have been continuously present in the U.S. for at least three years if you are married to a U.S. citizen.)
- You must show that you have lived for at least three months in the same state or USCIS district where you currently live.
Please keep in mind that the requirements might vary depending on your personal circumstances and the reason why you qualify for U.S. citizenship.
USCIS Processing of Form N-400
Most people will need to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, to start the process. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires you to submit two passport-style photos with your application. You’ll also need to send in various supporting documents.
The time it takes for the USCIS to process your application depends on where you file it. Where you need to file your application depends on where you live. Check with the processing center in your jurisdiction to find the current processing times. The USCIS will take this time to review your forms and supporting documents to decide whether you qualify to become a U.S. citizen.
Because the USCIS will contact you mostly through the mail, it’s extremely important that it has your current mailing address throughout your application for U.S. citizenship.
After the USCIS receives your application, it will send you a letter scheduling you for a biometrics appointment from the USCIS. You will have to go to your local USCIS Application Support Center at a specific time to get your fingerprints, photograph and signature taken. The USCIS will use this information to check your criminal background (if any).
Once your criminal background check is completed, the USCIS might ask you for more information. If the USCIS does want additional information or documents, it will contact you by mail and tell you what information it needs and where to send it. This letter will also contain a deadline for when you need to send the USCIS this information. Once the USCIS has all the information it needs, it will schedule an interview. You will receive a notice in the mail with the date, time and location of this interview.
The Citizenship Interview
At the interview, a USCIS officer will meet with you, review your application and ask you to clarify any questions that they have. The purpose of the interview is for the USCIS officer to decide whether you qualify to become a U.S. citizen. You might be asked questions about your eligibility for U.S. citizenship. For example, this could include questions about the relative or employer who qualified you to apply for your green card. It could also include questions about any past criminal arrests or convictions, so you should be prepared to explain such events and provide documents. If the interview goes well, you will be asked to take English and U.S. history tests.
The Citizenship Test
For the English test, you will be asked to read a sentence in English aloud and to write a sentence in English. You can request an exemption from the English requirement if you are over a certain age or if you have been a green card holder for a certain amount of time.
For the history test, you must answer at least six of 10 questions correctly to pass. The USCIS publishes a study guide of 100 history questions that you can study before the test. The USCIS officer will pick the 10 questions for your test from these 100 questions. You might be exempt from the history test if you are over a certain age or have been a green card holder for a certain amount of time.
The Naturalization Ceremony
Once you have passed the interview and the English and history tests, you will get a letter scheduling you for your naturalization ceremony. Again, the amount of time between your interview and your naturalization ceremony will depend on your jurisdiction.
At the naturalization ceremony, you will be asked to take an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. You will also exchange your green card for a Certificate of Naturalization, which is proof of your status as a U.S. citizen.
At this point, you will be a U.S. citizen! The process can be long, but most people find that the benefits are well worth it.