When someone becomes a US citizen, that person commits to the civic ideals and principles guaranteed by the US Constitution. As long the applicant meets immigration law requirements, achieving US citizenship is not an impossible goal for an individual born outside the United States.
In this article, you will find a full guide on how to achieve US citizenship through the process of naturalization.
US Naturalization vs. US Citizenship Acquisition – Understanding the Concept
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency responsible for administering the US naturalization and immigration system. Depending on the applicant’s situation, USCIS has different options for individuals seeking US citizenship.
It is fundamental to understand the difference between the terms “naturalization” and “acquisition of citizenship.”
Naturalization is the process by which a foreign-born individual who has been living in the United States as a lawful permanent resident is granted US citizenship based on eligibility requirements established by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Acquisition of citizenship is obtained through US citizen parents (either at birth or after birth) before the age of 18. If a person was neither born in the United States nor born to US citizen parents, the process of naturalization is the only path to US citizenship.
A person can apply for US naturalization if:
- He or she has been a lawful permanent resident in the US for at least five years
- He or she is married to a US citizen
- He or she is serving in the US military
Most applicants apply based on the time spent as lawful permanent citizens in the United States. Consult with an immigration attorney to identify the best approach for your case, as USCIS has specific requirements for each category
Citizenship Through Naturalization in US – How to Apply for Naturalization
The first step to applying for US naturalization is to determine whether the applicant is eligible to become a US citizen. Depending on the applicant’s circumstances, the eligibility criteria may slightly vary.
USCIS has a naturalization eligibility worksheet available for potential applicants on the agency’s official website. In the worksheet, it is possible to identify one’s eligibility for US citizenship.
If the applicant meets USCIS eligibility requirements, the next step is to file Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization) and submit it with the supporting documentation and the required fees.
USCIS may require a biometrics appointment for certain candidates. The agency will schedule an appointment and send the applicant a notice with the scheduled date, time, and location.
Once the preliminary steps are complete, USCIS will schedule an interview. Additionally, the applicant must go through an English proficiency test and a civics test. Depending on the applicant’s performance, USCIS may approve the petition for naturalization.
In some cases, successful applicants can participate in a naturalization ceremony on the same day they succeed in their interviews. The final step is to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and receive a Certificate of Naturalization.