Getting US citizenship through naturalization is a common way if you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) of the United States; you may have wondered what it takes to become a U.S. citizen.
U.S. citizenship is not only a legal status, but also a privilege and a responsibility. It grants you many rights and benefits, such as the right to vote, run for office, travel with a U.S. passport, and access federal programs and services.
It also requires you to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States, and to participate in civic life.
What is Naturalization and Why is it Important?
Naturalization is the process of voluntarily becoming a U.S. citizen by meeting certain requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It is not an easy or quick process, but it is rewarding and fulfilling for those who complete it.
I will explain everything you need to know about naturalization, from the eligibility criteria to the application steps, the test and interview, and the oath ceremony. We will also share some tips and resources to help you prepare for your journey.
Let’s get started!
How to Apply for the U.S. Citizenship Through Naturalization
If you meet the eligibility criteria for naturalization, you can proceed to the next step: filing the application. To do this, you will need to complete and submit the following forms and documents to USCIS:
- Fill Out Form N-400: This is your primary application form. It asks for personal info, your immigration history and checks if you’re eligible for citizenship. Access the Form N-400 here.
- Optional Form N-648: If you have a physical or mental disability that makes taking the English or civics test difficult, you can complete this form. A licensed medical professional must complete and sign it for you. This form is also available on the USCIS website.
- Two Passport-style Photos: Attach two color photos of yourself that meet passport photo requirements. The USCIS website has specific photo guidelines.
- Photocopy of Your Green Card: Make a copy of both sides of your permanent resident card to include with your application.
- Evidence of Eligibility: You might need extra documents depending on your case. For instance, if you’re applying through marriage, you’ll need your marriage certificate, joint tax returns, and proof you live together. Name changes require a court order or marriage certificate. If you’ve served in the U.S. armed forces, documents like a D.D. Form 214 are needed. The USCIS website lists all possible documents you need.
- Pay the Fees: As of 2023, the total cost is $725, including a $640 filing fee and an $85 biometric fee. You can pay online, by mail, or at a USCIS office, with details on the USCIS website.
After submitting your application:
- Receipt Notice: USCIS will send you a notice confirming they received your application.
- Biometrics Appointment: You’ll be called in for fingerprinting, a photo, and a signature at a USCIS facility. The USCIS website explains this in detail.
- Naturalization Test and Interview: You’ll have to show your English and U.S. civics knowledge and answer questions about your application and background at a USCIS field office.
- Oath Ceremony: If you pass the test and interview, you’ll be invited to an oath ceremony to become a U.S. citizen at a USCIS location or a federal court. Again, more details are on the USCIS website.
Remember, each step is essential, and the USCIS website is your go-to resource for detailed information and forms.
How to Prepare for the Naturalization Test and Interview
Preparing for the naturalization test and interview is a crucial step in becoming a U.S. citizen. Here’s a guide to help you get ready:
Understand the Test and Interview Process
This is where you’ll demonstrate your knowledge of English and U.S. civics and your commitment to the United States Constitution and democratic principles. A USCIS officer will conduct the test and interview. Here are what to bring to the interview:
- Your appointment notice.
- Your green card.
- Your passport or other travel documents.
- Any additional documents requested by USCIS or those you want to update/change on your application.
- A list of all trips outside the U.S. since you became a permanent resident.
- A list of all your addresses, employers, and schools since becoming a permanent resident.
The English Test
It includes speaking, reading, and writing sections.
- Speaking: Your ability to communicate with the officer during the interview.
- Reading: Read aloud one out of three sentences correctly.
- Writing: Write one out of three sentences correctly.
The Civics Test
The civic test consists of 10 questions about U.S. history and government, and you must answer at least six correctly to pass. The questions are available on the USCIS website.
Civics Test Preparation Tips:
- Review USCIS study materials Available on the USCIS website; these include Form N-400, civics questions and answers, vocabulary lists, flashcards, study booklets, and practice tests.
- Many community organizations, libraries, and schools offer free or low-cost citizenship classes. Check the USCIS website for options near you.
- Find others who are also preparing and practicing together.
- Watch videos or listen to podcasts about U.S. history and government.
- Enhance your understanding by visiting museums, monuments, parks, or landmarks related to U.S. history and government.
If you want additional support, contact USCIS or an immigration attorney about your application or eligibility.
How to Celebrate Your U.S. Citizenship
Congratulations! You have passed the U.S citizenship through naturalization test and interview. So, you are ready to become a U.S. citizen.
The last step in the naturalization process is the oath ceremony, where you will take the oath of allegiance and receive your naturalization certificate.
The oath ceremony is a solemn and meaningful event where you will pledge your loyalty and commitment to the United States and its Constitution. You will also renounce any allegiance or fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty and any title or order of nobility you may have.
The oath ceremony is usually held at a USCIS location or a federal court and may be presided by a USCIS officer, a judge, or a magistrate. You will receive a notice with your ceremony’s date, time, and location.
You should arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled time and bring the following documents with you:
- Your appointment notice
- Your green card
- Your passport or other travel document
- Your certificate of naturalization (if you have already received it)
- Any additional documents that USCIS has requested or that you want to update or change on your certificate
You should also dress appropriately for the occasion and avoid wearing casual or inappropriate clothing, such as jeans, shorts, t-shirts, or hats. You should also refrain from bringing any food, drinks, or electronic devices, such as phones, cameras, or laptops, to the ceremony.
At the ceremony, you must check in with a USCIS officer, who will review your documents and collect your green card. You will also have to answer some questions about your background and eligibility, such as whether you have traveled outside the United States, committed any crimes, or changed your name since your interview.
You should answer these questions honestly and accurately and inform the officer of any changes or updates affecting your citizenship.
You will then be seated in the auditorium or courtroom, where you will watch a video presentation about the history and values of the United States and listen to a speech by a USCIS official, a judge, or a guest speaker. You will also recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner.
The most important part of the ceremony is the oath of allegiance, where you will raise your right hand and repeat the following words after the USCIS officer or the judge:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.“
By taking the oath of allegiance, you will become a U.S. citizen and receive your certificate of naturalization.
This is a very important document that proves your U.S. citizenship, and you should keep it in a safe place. You should also check your certificate for any errors or mistakes and report them to a USCIS officer as soon as possible.
After the ceremony, you can register to vote, apply for a U.S. passport, and update your Social Security record. You can also celebrate your new citizenship with your family and friends and share your story and photos on social media using the hashtag #newUScitizen.
- You have completed the naturalization process and are officially a U.S. citizen.
- You should be proud of yourself and your accomplishments and enjoy the rights and responsibilities that come with your citizenship.
- You should also continue to learn about U.S. history and government and participate in civic life.
- You are now part of the American family, and you have a voice and a role in shaping the future of this country.
- Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
- Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions
- Eligibility Tool
- Payment options and instructions
- Biometrics appointment
- Test and interview
- Citizenship classes
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