For most who carry a Legal Permanent Residency card, the general steps to change legal status from a Permanent Resident to a Citizen involve walking through the 10 steps of Naturalization which are listed below.
Step 1: Verify status in the United States
Before the naturalization process begins, the applicant must ensure that he or she is not already a U.S. Citizen. This may seem odd, but numerous individuals unknowingly had U.S. Citizenship and were put through deportation proceedings and/or other immigration problems.
To avoid this and determine if you may be a U.S. citizen, ask these 2 questions:
1) Were you born in the United States or a territory of the U.S?
2) Was at least one of your parents a U.S. Citizen when you were born?
If yes, refer to form N-600, (Application for Certificate of Citizenship) or Form N-600K, (Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate). If you have a U.S citizen parent who is a citizen either by birth or naturalization, you may already be a citizen or may be able to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship based on their citizenship.
If you recently applied for a Legal Permanent Residency card, it is advised to verify legal status. USCIS provides a Case Status Search on their website where an applicant can check the status with the receipt number of the Naturalization Application.
Now that you have asked yourself these questions, let us dive into the rest of the 10 steps of Naturalization.
Step 2: Check eligibility for citizenship
Before we begin the naturalization application, we must identify your legal situation and ensure you meet the eligibility requirements. The general eligibility requirement for becoming a citizen are as follow:
- Be a permanent resident (also known as a “Green Card”) for at least 5 years.
- Be at least 18 years old at the time you file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
- Demonstrate continuous residence in the United States for at least 5 years immediately before the date you file Form N-400.
- Show that you have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately before the date you file Form N-400.
- Show that you have lived for at least 3 months in the state or USCIS district where you apply. Students may apply for naturalization either where they go to school or where their family lives (if they are still financially dependent on their parents).
If you would like to learn more about citizenship eligibility, click here.
Step 3: Fill out Form N-400 (Naturalization Application)
After verifying status and eligibilty, it is time to begin the application for Naturalization. Here is a quick summary of what you will need to gather:
- Download the N-400 form and guide for instructions from the USCIS website
- Download the Document Checklist from the USCIS website
- Gather eligibility documents and current filing fee
- If living outside of the U.S, obtain 2 passport photos.
Step 4: Submit Form N-400 (Naturalization Application)
Upon submission, USCIS shall send a receipt which you will need in order to check the status on the application.
To view the status of applications, the USCIS website provides access for a Case Status Search. Customer service also provides assistance at 1-800-375-5282 or 1-800-767-1833 (for hearing impaired).
Step 5: Attend biometrics appointment if applicable
If applicable, USCIS will provide applicants with details. In the biometrics appointment, USCIS collects fingerprints, photos, and signatures for electronic capture to uniquely identify people.
Step 6: Naturalization Interview
After submitting the Naturalization application, USCIS will contact the applicant to schedule an Interview where an agent will:
- Review the application
- Test ability to speak, read, and write in English
- Test knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics)
- Decide on eligibility for citizenship
For more information, the following link provides an overview of the naturalization process in the United States: Overview of the Naturalization Process
Step 7: Receive results of Form N-400
USCIS will provide the applicant with a notice of results, which can be any of the following:
Accepted: USCIS will approve a N-400 application when documents prove eligibility.
Continued: USCIS will continue an application if more documentation is needed.
Denied: USCIS will deny an application if there are missing documents, or if an applicant has failed the civic or english exam.
Step 8: Notification for Oath of Allegiance
When USCIS approves the Form N-400 from Step 7, the applicant can take part in the naturalization ceremony the same day of the interview.
In case of no scheduled ceremony the day of an interview, USCIS will provide the applicant with a date and time for another ceremony.
In the process leading up to the Oath of Allegiance Ceremony, an oficial from USCIS will review answers from the form N-445 (Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony), turn in the Permanent Residency card, and prompt applicant to take part in the Oath of Allegiance Ceremony. After the applicant takes part in the Oath, the applicant becomes a citizen.
Step 9: Take Oath of Allegiance
An applicant in the Naturalization process becomes a citizen once the Oath of Allegiance is recited.
There are two types of ceremonies:
- In a judicial ceremony, the court administers the Oath of Allegiance.
- In an administrative ceremony, USCIS administers the Oath of Allegiance.
It is advised that all applicants review certificates prior to departure from the site.
Step 10: Understand and fulfill responsibilities as a citizen of the United States.
After a succesful naturalization process, citizens must be aware of thier rights and responsiilites listed below:
To learn more about the rights and responsibilities of U.S. Citizens, click here,