Becoming a U.S. citizen is a rewarding process, but it can be hard to navigate all of the different requirements and forms. Let’s take a look at the top 10 questions about becoming a U.S. citizen.
What are the ways to become a U.S. citizen?
There are two different ways to become a U.S. citizen: through birth or through naturalization.
If one of your parents is a U.S. citizen, you may have qualified to become a U.S. citizen at birth. If this is your case, and you’d like to claim your citizenship, you’ll have to file Form N-600 or N-600K. These forms are basically used to prove that at least one of your parents was a U.S. citizen and that you’re eligible for a Certificate of Citizenship.
Naturalization is the more common way of becoming a citizen. If you’re currently a permanent resident in the United States, the way to become a citizen is through the naturalization process. To do this, you’ll need to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
If you are not currently a legal permanent resident, here is our ultimate guide on applying for legal permanent residency.
Why should I become a U.S. citizen?
There are lots of benefits to being a U.S. citizen. You get priority status when you petition to bring your family members to the United States, you get to vote, you can get a U.S. passport and use it for travelling abroad, and if your children are born overseas they receive U.S. citizenship automatically. You can also get a job in the federal government and run for office in the United States.
What responsibilities will I have as a U.S. citizen?
When you become a U.S. citizen, you commit to certain responsibilities. These include participating in the political process, doing jury duty when required, registering for the selective service (if you’re a male between the ages of 18-26), and promising to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States.
What are the requirements to become a U.S. citizen?
To become a U.S. citizen through naturalization, you normally have to fulfill the following requirements:
- You have to be 18 years old or older,
- You need to be a green card holder for at least the 5 years leading up to your application for citizenship,
- During those 5 years, you need to have continuous residence in the United States,
- Also during those 5 years, you need to have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months,
- You need to have lived in the same state or USCIS district for at least 3 months leading up to your application,
- Once you apply, you need to live continuously in the U.S. until the naturalization process is complete,
- You need to be a person of good moral character and committed to the principles in the U.S. Constitution, and
- You have to be able to speak, read and write basic English and have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government.
These basic requirements are taken from the USCIS website. However, these requirements may change based on your individual circumstances. You should check out our complete guide to applying for United States citizenship to read more about the requirements and see which ones apply to you.
In some cases, you may be eligible to have some of the requirements waived completely. For example, if you’re over age 50 when you apply for citizenship, and if you’ve lived in the U.S. for at least 20 years, you don’t have to speak English to become a citizen. If you have a medical disability, you may not be required to take the English and civic exams. To learn more about exceptions and accommodations and to see if you qualify for any, click here.
You can check your eligibility for applying for U.S. citizenship here:
Are you eligible to apply for Citizenship?
Are you currently living in the United States?
Have you lived in the US for more than 3 months?
Did you enter the United States with an active visa or green card?
Are you married to a US citizen?
Do you have a Green Card?
Did you obtain the Green Card through marriage?
Have you had the Green Card for at least 2.5 years?
Have you traveled outside of the US for at least 6 months during the last 2.5 years
Have you had the Green Cards for atleast 4.5 years?
You are probably not eligible to apply.
If you would like to apply for a Green Card, instead of a Renewal, we can help you.
You are eligible to apply online for Naturalization!
What if I’m married to a U.S. citizen?
If you’re married to a U.S. citizen, the requirements for naturalization change a little bit. The biggest difference is that you only have to live in the U.S. for 3 years instead of 5. If your spouse is in the military or works for the U.S. government and is going to be stationed abroad, you may be able to become a citizen even more quickly.
What if I’m serving or have served in the U.S. military?
If you’ve served in the U.S. military, you and your family may be eligible for special benefits when it comes to applying for citizenship. The requirements vary widely, but in general, if you’ve served in the military for a certain amount of time, both you and your family members can qualify for citizenship. You may have to file Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service, as proof that you are or were in the military.
If you’ve served in the U.S. military, you may also not be required to pay filing fees on some forms. See each form’s instructions for details.
When a member of the U.S. military dies during their service, they may qualify to receive citizenship posthumously. In this case, Form N-644, Application for Posthumous Citizenship, should be filed on their behalf within 2 years of their death. As an immediate family member of someone who died while serving in the U.S. military, you may also qualify for citizenship.
How much does it cost to apply for citizenship?
If you’re claiming U.S. citizenship through birth, the filing fee for both Form N-600 and Form N-600K is $1,170.
If you’re applying for naturalization, the Form N-400 filing fee is $640. If you’re under 75 years old, you’ll also have to pay $85 for a biometric services fee, bringing the total to $725.
What’s the processing time after I’ve submitted everything?
Processing times can vary widely, but you should plan on at least several months for any of these forms. Once you’ve submitted your form, you can check it’s progress with the USCIS Case Status Checker.
What happens when I go in for my interview?
In your interview, you’ll be asked questions about your application for citizenship and your background.
As part of your interview, you’ll have to take a civics test. This test is made up of 10 questions about the U.S. government and how it works. To pass the test, you’ll have to get 6 of the questions right.
You’ll also have to take an English test during your interview. The English test has 3 parts–speaking, reading, and writing. Your speaking ability will be measured by the USCIS officer conducting the interview. For the reading test, you’ll be asked to read an English sentence out loud. For the writing test, you’ll need to write out a sentence in English correctly.
If you fail either the civics test or the English test, you get one more chance to retake it with your current application. You’ll be retested on the part of the test that you failed between 60 and 90 days after your first interview. If you fail again, you’ll have to submit a new application for citizenship.
For a video that gives an overview of the interview and the civic and English tests, click here.
Can I reapply if my application is denied?
If you’re trying to become a citizen through naturalization and your Form N-400 is denied, then yes you can! You have the option of appealing your decision using Form N-336. You’ll be able to find information about appealing your decision in your denial letter.
If you don’t want to appeal your decision, you can still usually reapply for citizenship. If you were denied because you didn’t pass the civic or English tests, you can reapply as soon as you’d like. If you were denied for some other reason, your denial letter should give you a date when you can reapply for citizenship. To reapply, you’ll have to file a new Form N-400 and pay the filing and biometric services fees again.
If you applied for a Certificate of Citizenship with Form N-600 or Form N-600K and your application was denied, you can appeal the decision within 30 days by filing Form I-290B. After the 30 days are up, you can use Form I-290B to appeal to have your case reopened.
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