How to become a naturalized U.S. citizen

What does “naturalization” mean? 

Naturalization refers to the process by which an immigrant can become a citizen of the United States. Citizenship comes with a number of benefits, such as: 

  • The ability to vote for elected officials
  • The ability to sponsor your relatives for a family-based green card
  • Increased job opportunities with the U.S. government
  • Your children will automatically become U.S. citizens, regardless of where they’re born
  • Eligibility to run for elected office

How do you naturalize?

STEP 1: Check for citizenship

You may already be a U.S. citizen without even knowing it. If you were born in the United States or your parents are U.S. citizens, you are a U.S. citizen. 

STEP 2: Check for eligibility

Your eligibility requirements vary depending on whether you or your spouse have a green card, how long you’ve been physically present in the United States, and whether you’ve served in the U.S. military. 

Green card holder: If you have been a green card holder for at least 5 years, AND you have physically lived in the U.S. for at least 30 months (2.5 years), you are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Green card holder with U.S. citizen spouse: If you are married to a U.S. citizen AND you have been a green card holder for at least 3 years AND you have physically lived in the U.S. for at least 18 months (1.5 years), you are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Member of U.S. military: If you have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military, you may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. Reach out to us if this applies to your situation. 

There are also a number of additional eligibility requirements for those who are interested in becoming naturalized citizens:

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • You must be a person of good moral character, part of which includes not having murder, illegal gambling, or lying to the U.S. government to obtain immigration benefits on your record at the time of filing
  • You must be able to speak, read, and write basic English*
  • You must have basic knowledge of U.S. history and government
  • You must have been living in the state from which you are applying for at least three months
  • You must be willing to serve in the U.S. military if called to do so
  • You must understand and be willing to take an oath of allegiance to the United States

*Depending on your age and how long you have lived in the U.S. as a green card holder, you may be eligible to become a citizen without taking the English test. Those with physical or mental impairments may be exempt from both the English and civics test requirements.

STEP 3: File your Application for Naturalization

Those interested in becoming a U.S. citizen must complete and file the Application of Naturalization (Form N-400). The N-400 can be filled out on paper and mailed to the USCIS, or the applicant can create an online account with the USCIS to apply online. At Cho Law LLC, we can guide you through filling out the N-400 properly to ensure that there is nothing that may cause your application to be denied. The USCIS filing fee for the N-400 is $725. The fee can be changed. 

You can fill out and submit the N-400 up to 90 days before your third or fifth year being a green card holder to get ahead in the process, though you will still have to meet all other eligibility requirements.

STEP 4: Attend your biometrics appointment

Your biometrics appointment will take place at a local USCIS office about a month after you file your N-400, where a government official will take your fingerprints to run a background check on you. 

STEP 5: Complete your interview and exam

Anywhere from 4 to 22 months after you file your N-400 (depending on your filing location), you will be notified to attend your interview. At the interview, a USCIS adjudicator will ask you questions that will verify that everything on your application is true.

The citizenship exam consists of two components: the English language test and the civics test. The English portion will check for basic writing and speaking skills, while the civics exam will evaluate basic knowledge of U.S. history and government. Your interviewer will approve your application immediately if you pass both the exam and the interview. 

STEP 6: Take the Oath of Allegiance

This is the final step to becoming a citizen after your application has been approved. The Oath of Allegiance ceremony will take place in a USCIS office or a local courthouse, where you’ll pledge to defend the Constitution as a U.S. citizen. Depending on your location, you may have your interview, test, and Oath on the same day. After you take the Oath, you’re a U.S. citizen!

Ready to take the first step? Reach out to us to find out how we can help.
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