To apply for American citizenship, one must first apply for naturalization. This process involves completing Form N-400 and filing it with the USCIS. Before applying, it is important for an applicant to make sure that he or she meets all eligibility requirements. There are also, however, some exceptions and accommodations that may be made depending on an applicant’s special circumstances. The USCIS provides a worksheet is available as a resource on their website, as well as a document checklist to help prepare application. The general steps of the naturalization process are listed below:
Step 1: Determine If You’re Already a U.S. Citizen
You are a U.S. citizen if you were either born in the United States or if you were born abroad to U.S. citizens. If you are a minor, you are also a U.S. citizen or are eligible to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship if one or both of your parents was naturalized.
Step 2: Determine Your Eligibility to Become a U.S. Citizen
You may qualify for naturalization if you are at least 18 years of age and have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years, or 3 years (if your spouse is a U.S. citizen) and have met all other requirements for eligibility. To determine your eligibility, more information can be found on Form N-400 or on the USCIS website. If you find out that you are ineligible, you are encouraged to re-apply once you meet the requirements.
Step 3: Prepare Form N-400 Application for Naturalization
When you have met all the requirements for U.S. Citizenship, you can complete Form N-400 found on the USCIS website. You must also prepare 2 photos if you are a non-resident. All necessary documentation must be collected.
Step 4: Submit Form N-400 Application for Naturalization
Submit your application, supporting documentation, and fees to USCIS. Biometric services fees may apply. If residing outside the U.S., you must submit “passport-style” photographs with your application. If applicable, you must submit Form N-648 Medical Certification for Disability if you are in need of an exception to the English or Civics requirement due to a developmental disability or impairment.
Step 5: Biometrics Appointment
As part of the FBI criminal background check phase of the naturalization process, applicants are required to be fingerprinted and photographed. Background checks must be completed before you are scheduled for an interview with the USCIS.
Step 6: Naturalization Interview
Once all initial steps in the naturalization process are complete, the USCIS will schedule an interview to finalize the process. You will be given an appointment notice, and must bring this notice with you to the appointment. It is important that you do not miss your interview date, as this will delay your naturalization process several months. If you change your address after filing Form N-400, you must notify the USCIS within 10 days of doing so.
At your interview, a USCIS officer will meet with you to review your Form N-400. If you are requesting a medical exception to the naturalization test, remember to submit Form N-648 if you did not do so when filing Form N-400. If not exempt, you will then take the English and Civics tests. Following testing and your interview, USCIS will notify you of your interview results. If the USCIS officer cannot make a final decision on your case the day of your naturalization interview, your case will be continued. In these cases, you may be requested to provide additional evidence at a following interview.
Step 6A: Continued Application
There are 3 common reasons for an application to get continued:
- You fail the English and/or Civics Test. In this case, you will be scheduled to come back for a second interview within 60-90 days of your initial interview. You will be re-tested only on the section (English or Civics) that you failed. If you fail the test a second time, USCIS will deny your Form N-400
- The USCIS officer determines that the documents/evidence you provided with Form N-400 are insufficient and additional evidence must be submitted. You will receive this request from Form N-14, and must provide the additional documentation to continue the naturalization process
- You fail to provide the USCIS with the correct documentation
Step 7: Decision on Form N-400
A written notice of the USCIS decision will be issued to you
- Approved: USCIS will approve your Form N-400 if their evidence verifies your eligibility to be naturalized as a U.S. citizen
- Denied: USCIS will deny your Form N-400 if their evidence does not establish your eligibility for naturalization
Step 7A: Denied Application
You will receive an explanation notice of your denied application from USCIS. If you are in contention with the USCIS decision to deny your Form N-400, you are allowed to request a hearing to appeal the decision by filing Form N-336.
Step 8: Notice to Pledge the Oath of Allegiance
In some cases, you will be able to take the Oath of Allegiance on the same day you successfully complete your interview. If it is unavailable on the same day, USCIS will mail you a notification of your scheduled oath ceremony. If you are unable to attend your scheduled oath ceremony, you must return Form N-445 Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony to the USCIS explaining your reason. You may request a rescheduled date.
Step 9: Take the Oath of Allegiance
Until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony, you are not an official U.S. citizen. The oath is administered by the USCIS or by a judge. You will turn in your Permanent Resident Card and then take the oath. Following this, you will then receive your official Certificate of Naturalization.
Step 10: Understand Your Rights As a U.S. Citizen
There are many important rights and responsibilities that you should exercise and enjoy as an American citizen. Honoring and respecting these rights and responsibilities will help you find more freedom and fulfillment as an American citizen and make a positive contribution to the United States of America.
Naturalization Process Assistance
Navigating the path to U.S. citizenship can be incredibly difficult and time-consuming if you are unfamiliar with U.S. immigration law and have difficulty keeping up with important information and documents. If you are seeking U.S. citizenship through naturalization, it is important to retain an experienced immigration attorney to guide you step by step through the application process. They will help you to determine your eligibility, gather all the necessary documentation, and help to provide resources to prepare you for your naturalization test and interview. Call Johnson & Masumi P.C. or contact us online today for an initial consultation on your case for U.S. citizenship.