Thinking about applying for American citizenship? This article gives you an overview of the naturalization process.
Need a reason to apply for citizenship? Here are 7.
- Bring family to the U.S. quicker
As a U.S. citizen, you can sponsor your spouse, children, parents and siblings. Of those categories, those who qualify as immediate family members of U.S. citizens can have a fast track to immigration. There’s an unlimited number of visas for these immigrants, so there’s no need to wait in line.With a permanent resident card (green card), you can sponsor your spouse and children for permanent residence, but it could take years.
Only U.S. citizens have the right to vote in federal elections, a cornerstone of American democracy.
- Travel the world with a U.S. passport
With a U.S. passport you can travel to 166 countries without having to first get a visa.
- Freedom from deportation
U.S. citizens are protected from deportation. If you have a green card and are a U.S. permanent resident, it’s possible to be deported for committing certain crimes.
- Citizenship for your children
Children of U.S. citizens automatically qualify for citizenship. If parents naturalize, their underage children get citizenship too.
- Get a federal job
Federal jobs are typically good-paying and have excellent benefits, but only U.S. citizens and nationals qualify.
- Run for office
Only U.S. citizens can run for government office. Represent your country by being the change you want to see.
Naturalization is the process of applying for American citizenship. Some people receive citizenship automatically, through birth or their parents. Before you apply for naturalization, be sure you check that you are not already a citizen, in which case all you need to do is prove it by getting the appropriate documentation (a much simpler process).
If you want to apply for naturalization, in most cases you will already need to have a green card. Beyond that, there are nine basic requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
- Be a permanent resident (have a green card) for at least 5 years (3 years if married to a U.S. citizen).
- Show that you have lived for at least 3 months in the state or USCIS district where you apply.
- Demonstrate continuous residence in the U.S. for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400 (3 years if married to a U.S. citizen).
- Show that you have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400 (18 months over a 3-year period if married to a U.S. citizen).
- Be able to read, write, and speak basic English.
- Have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
- Be a person of good moral character.
- Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution.
The application for U.S. citizenship, USCIS Form N-400, is the longest and most complicated U.S. immigration form. The application is 20 pages, plus 18 pages of instructions. It’s important to carefully read both the questions and the instructions. Depending on your situation, you may be required to answer some question in a very particular manner, and you may need to omit (not answer) others.
Many applicants choose to use a service to complete the N-400 application correctly. US-Immigration.com is a private service that offers an online software preparation software to assist you every step of the way, providing access to helpful tools and independent immigration attorney review. Click here to learn more.
The filing fee for the N-400 application is $640. Most applicants are required to pay an $85 biometric services fee for a total of $725.
The USCIS offers income-based fee-waivers to qualifying applicants. To request a fee waiver, submit Form I-912 with your N-400 application. To be eligible, you must meet one of the following conditions:
- You, your spouse, or the head of household living with you, are currently receiving a means-tested benefit (SNAP or food stamps, TANF, SSI, etc.).
- Your household income is at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time you file. Check the current Federal Poverty Guidelines for this year at Form I-912P, HHS Poverty Guidelines for Fee Waiver Requests.
- You are currently experiencing financial hardship that prevents you from paying the filing fee, including unexpected medical bills or emergencies.