How to Apply for Citizenship in the United States!
If all your legal paperwork is up to date and ready, you might think about the next step and apply for American Citizenship. Remember: A legal resident is not the same as being a citizen.
Citizenship is defined as the relationship of an individual in regards to their country. This relationship generates certain responsibilities, certain rights and duties.
The American Constitution, for example, refers to the “privileges and immunities” of citizenship. It also offers important protection for the “people” who live in the country, regardless of nationality. This includes the right to equal protection under the laws and due process of the law. The “people,” who are legal residents, are eligible to attend schools, maintain employment, pay taxes and receive additional benefits.
All green card holders or permanent residents may—after 5 years’ residence—apply for citizenship. However, a green card does not provide the same rights of a citizen, although they share in the economy and in many cases are related to an American family.
To apply for naturalization, you must present the N-400 Form, which is called: Application for Naturalization. Before applying, be sure you meet the requested eligible requirements.
First, determine if you are already a citizen of the United States. You may be a citizen by birth or acquired by one of your parents.
If you are sure you are not a citizen, then determine if you are eligible to become a citizen. For this process, review the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), page regarding naturalization eligibility.
What are the basic requirements to apply for naturalization?
The process to apply for American citizenship is known as naturalization. In the first place, in order to be eligible for naturalization you must meet certain requirements of the United States immigration law as follows:
- Be older than 18 years; and
- Be a permanent resident for a certain amount of time (usually 5 or 3 years);
- Have good moral character;
- Possess a basic knowledge of US government (this can be exempted in case of permanent physical or mental handicap);
- Have a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
- Be able to read, write and speak basic English. There are exceptions to this rule for those who at the time of application present these circumstances:
-Is 55 years old and has resided permanently for at least 15 years; or
-Is 50 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 20 years; or
-Has a permanent physical or mental impairment, which prevent the individual from complying with these requirements.
When can you apply for naturalization?
If you are under 18 years of age and have been a permanent resident of the United States for:
- At least 5 years; or
- At least 3 years during which time you have been—and still are—married and living in a marriage relationship with an American citizen; or
- Provide honorable services to the United States army.
Certain spouses of American citizens and/or members of the armed forces may apply for naturalization before the stated requirements noted above.
If you meet the above requirements, you may apply with the N-400 Form. This is the Application for Naturalization. Start by downloading the form from the USCIS website and read the instructions carefully. You will need 2 passport size photos and required paperwork to prove your eligibility for naturalization. Then submit the N-400 form and USCIS will send you a notice of receipt. You can check the processing times and the current status of your request online or by calling the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or 1-800-767-1833 (for the deaf).
If the process continues, they may request an appointment at a later date to take your biometric data, which is a series of physical parameters unique to each individual to verify their identity. USCIS will then send you an appointment notice that includes the date, time and place. You must be punctual! After your fingerprints are taken along with other biometric data, you will have a second interview also programmed by USCIS. You will also receive an appointment notice sent by this office.
If the process continues, you will be required to take an oath of loyalty to the American flag, perhaps the same day of the approval or on another fixed appointment date set by USCIS. With this ceremony you will finally have your American Citizenship!
To complete this process, fill in the questionnaire found on Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony. A USCIS officer will review your answers. Please have your green card on hand. After the Oath ceremony is complete, you will receive a certificate of naturalization. Review the information and inform USCIS of any errors before departure.
These processes may take quite a while and sometimes, in spite of how simple it may seem, things can get tricky! Especially when it comes to completing the forms and searching for the necessary information. For these reasons and more, consult with an immigration attorney. It might not be very affordable but you will not waste time and your paperwork will be done correctly!
On the USCIS page, you will find more information for this and other procedures. Do not hesitate to communicate with them if you have any doubts. They provide services in Spanish.