For many, the dream of U.S. citizenship is just that, a dream. For those who meet all the requirements, that dream can become a reality. Most immigrants who have become U.S. citizens will tell you the process can be as challenging as it is long.
The road to citizenship begins when an immigrant obtains permanent residency or a green card. That process alone can take several years. Once a green card holder has lived as a permanent resident in the United States for a few years they can start considering citizenship.
Step 1: Are you eligible?
When a permanent resident thinks they’re ready to apply for citizenship the first thing they must do is determine their eligibility. Some of the requirements are:
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Have a green card for 5 years.
- Be of good moral character.
- Speak English and know basic U.S. Civics.
- Have continuous residence in the U.S. for 5 years.
At a glance, it can be difficult to determine if you’re eligible for citizenship under those terms. One thing FileRight does is make the whole process easier, that’s starting with eligibility. FileRight offers free eligibility quizzes where you answer just a few simple questions to find out if you meet the basic requirements to qualify for the immigration benefit you’re seeking.
Step 2: Fill Out and N-400
Once you’ve determined your eligibility you can begin the process of completing Form N-400 Application for Naturalization. This form is one of the longest and most complicated forms the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services offers.
The naturalization application to obtain citizenship will ask a multitude of questions about your personal and family history. It can be daunting but a critical part of the U.S. citizenship process.
Some brave immigrants choose to complete the naturalization application completely on their own. Others make the more expensive decision to hire an attorney to help them with the paperwork.
Another option is using technology to aid you in your quest for citizenship. FileRight is one such company that offers an application preparation service. Using FileRight you will prepare the citizenship application online but the software will check your application along the way for common errors. FileRight can also connect you with an immigration attorney who is willing to review your application for an affordable fee.
Step 3: Get Fingerprinted
If your application makes it through the USCIS’ initial screening you will eventually be contacted for what’s called a biometric appointment. Biometrics simply means information about you. The main purpose of the appointment is for the USCIS to ensure you are who you say you are. Your photo will be taken, your fingerprints documented and you will be required to provide an electronic signature. Most immigrants say the process is simple.
Step 4: Attend Citizenship Interview
This should be the step you’ve been preparing for the whole time. Once you’ve completed the biometric appointment you will receive a date to attend your citizenship interview.
The citizenship interview will include many of the topics immigrants have likely been studying while they wait for this day. You will meet with an immigration officer who will ask you about certain parts of your application if they have any questions.
This is also when you’ll be quizzed on your knowledge of English, U.S. Civics, and History.
If you pass the exam, the hard part is over.
Step 5: The Naturalization Ceremony
After successfully passing the citizenship interview you’ll be given a date to attend your naturalization ceremony. This is where you will officially take the oath of allegiance to the United States and become a U.S. citizen.
The naturalization ceremony will typically be conducted in a large room where a judge naturalizes a large group of new citizens.
As part of the ceremony, you will be handed a certificate of naturalization. This document is very important because it proves your citizenship within the United States. It’s very important this document is not lost because that could mean trouble in the future.
It’s also important to ensure all the information on the certificate is correct. If it is not you should consider filing to get a replacement.
Once all that is done you’ll be ready to celebrate with friends and family. Congratulations on becoming an American citizen.