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Understanding the Process of Becoming a U.S. Citizen

Each year, millions of people from countries around the world immigrate to the United States, ranging from tourists visiting for a couple weeks to workers coming for a job to refugees escaping persecution from their country of birth.

The U.S. passport is currently ranks No. 3 in the world (according the Passport Index) with a Mobility Score of 171 – making it a sort after travel passport by nationals of other countries.

To become a U.S. citizen, you must:

Have had a Permanent Resident (Green) Card for at least five years, or for at least three years if you’re filing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen.

If you apply for naturalization less than six months before your Permanent Resident Card expires, or do not apply for naturalization until your card has already expired, you must renew your card.

See Also: New skilled visas to encourage migration to regional Australia

You can apply for naturalization before you receive your new Green Card, but you’ll need to submit a photocopy of the receipt of your Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, when you receive it.

Meet certain eligibility requirements including being:

  • At least 18 years old at the time of filing
  • Able to read, write, and speak basic English
  • A person of good moral character

Go through the ten step naturalization process which includes (See Infographic Below)

    • Determining your eligibility to become an American citizen
    • Preparing and submitting form N-400, the application for naturalization
    • Taking the U.S. Naturalization Test and having a personal interview

U.S. Citizenship through Naturalization

Becoming a citizen through naturalization is a process in which a non-U.S. citizen voluntarily becomes an American citizen. U.S. citizens owe their allegiance to the United States and are entitled to its protection and to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens.

To apply for naturalization, you will need to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Below you will find a general description of the application process. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for immigration matters, including naturalization.

 Steps to become a U.S. citizen by Naturalization:

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Step 1. Determine if you are already a U.S. citizen.

What to do: If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth, or you did not acquire or derive U.S. citizenship from your parent(s) automatically after birth, go to the next step.

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Step 2. Determine if you are eligible to become a U.S. citizen.

What to do: Review the naturalization eligibility worksheet (PDF, 301 KB) to help you decide if you are eligible to apply for naturalization.

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Step 3. Prepare your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

What to do: Read the instructions to complete Form N-400. Collect the necessary documents to demonstrate your eligibility for naturalization. If you reside outside the United States, get 2 passport-style photos taken. Use the document checklist to make sure you collect all the required documents.

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Step 4. Submit your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

Once you submit Form N-400, USCIS will send you a receipt notice. You can check case processing times and your case status online.

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Step 5. Go to the biometrics appointment, if applicable.

What to do: If you need to take biometrics, USCIS will send you an appointment notice that includes your biometrics appointment date, time, and location. Arrive at the designated location at the scheduled time. Have your biometrics taken.

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Step 6. Complete the interview.

Once all the preliminary processes on your case are complete, USCIS will schedule an interview with you to complete the naturalization process. You must report to the USCIS office at the date and time on your appointment notice. Please bring the appointment notice with you.

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Step 7. Receive a decision from USCIS on your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

USCIS will issue you a written notice of decision.

  • Granted—USCIS may approve your Form N-400 if the evidence in your record establishes that you are eligible for naturalization.
  • Continued—USCIS may continue your application if you need to provide additional evidence/documentation, fail to provide USCIS the correct documents, or fail the English and/or civics test the first time.
  • Denied—USCIS will deny your Form N-400 if the evidence in your record establishes you are not eligible for naturalization.
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Step 8. Receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance.

What to expect: If USCIS approved your Form N-400 in step 7, you may be able to participate in a naturalization ceremony on the same day as your interview. If a same day naturalization ceremony is unavailable, USCIS will mail you a notification with the date, time, and location of your scheduled ceremony.

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Step 9. Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

You are not a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony.

What to do: Complete the questionnaire on Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony. Report for your naturalization ceremony and check in with USCIS. A USCIS officer will review your responses to Form N-445. Turn in your Permanent Resident Card (Green Card). Take the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen. Receive your Certificate of Naturalization, review it, and notify USCIS of any errors you see on your certificate before leaving the ceremony site.

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Step 10. Understanding U.S. citizenship.

Citizenship is the common thread that connects all Americans. Check out this list of some of the most important rights and responsibilities that all citizens—both Americans by birth and by choice—should exercise, honor, and respect.

For more detailed information on the naturalization process, please visit the Citizenship Through Naturalization page on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

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