The United States is a nation bound by the shared values of freedom, liberty, and quality. Throughout the country’s history, many immigrants came from all over the world to be part of the American Dream and contribute to the nation’s legacy as the land of opportunity.
In this article, you will understand the US citizenship process.
US Citizenship vs. US Naturalization – The Fundamentals
To decision to apply for US citizenship is one of the most important decisions in any immigrant’s life. Becoming a US citizen offers many benefits and responsibilities, as taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States requires full commitment to the country’s values.
It is important to understand that the terms “citizenship” and “naturalization” do not refer to the same concept. A person is a US citizen if:
- He or she was born on American soil (US states, District of Columbia, or federal territories), or
- He or she was born to US citizen parents
If a person meets neither of these requirements, the only path to US citizenship is to apply for naturalization with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Once the process of naturalization is complete, USCIS grants US citizenship to lawful permanent residents who meet the requirements established by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Why Should Lawful Permanent Residents Apply for US Citizenship?
Under federal and state laws, there are several benefits that only US citizens can enjoy, including the right:
- To vote in US elections
- To serve on a jury at the federal or state level
- To travel with a US passport
- To get assistance from the federal government when traveling abroad (if necessary)
- To sponsor family members to attain lawful permanent resident status in the United States
- To grant US citizenship to their children and grandchildren
- To apply for federal jobs
- To become an elected official
- To run for federal office (US Senate or House of Representatives) and most state and local offices
- To hold the right to remain in the United States
- To be eligible for federal grants and scholarships
- To access public benefits limited to US citizens
What is the Citizenship Process in the US? – Applying for US Naturalization
Before applying for US naturalization, applicants must identify whether they are already US citizens. It is not unusual to find individuals who are US citizens without realizing it.
If that is not the applicant’s case, he or she must consult with an immigration attorney to determine their eligibility for US naturalization. Applicants who meet USCIS requirements can fill out Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization) with USCIS.
The document package must include supporting documentation and the applicant must pay the required filing fee. If necessary, USCIS will schedule a biometrics appointment once the petition is approved.
The next step is to attend the interview scheduled by USCIS. Applicants must demonstrate their English proficiency and knowledge of US history, principles, and government in a civics test.
Depending on the applicant’s performance in the interview, USCIS may approve the application. Once approved in the interview, the last step for successful applicants is to take the Oath of Allegiance within an official ceremony.
The naturalization process is riddled with pitfalls for unprepared applicants. Work with an experienced immigration attorney to avoid uncertainty and increase your chances of success.