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Naturalization Information: How to Become a US Citizen

Every year, more than 750,000 people become United States citizens. Are you interested in becoming a citizen yourself? 

The US citizenship process is known for being challenging. You don’t have to try and navigate things alone, though.

If you want to know how to become a US citizen and aren’t sure where to begin, keep reading. Everything you need to know is explained below.

Ways to Become a US Citizen

There are several different ways in which one can become a US citizen. The following are some of the most common approaches:

  • Citizenship through birth: If you’re born in the United States, you are automatically considered a citizen
  • Citizenship through derivation: If a child was born abroad but their parents become citizens, those children can “derive” citizenship from their parents
  • Citizenship through naturalization: This involves a lengthy application process and is the most common approach people take to become citizens

The remainder of this post will focus on citizenship through naturalization since it is the approach most immigrants are likely to take.

Basic Naturalization Requirements

In order to attain US citizenship through naturalization, you’ll have to start by meeting some basic requirements. You’ll first need to fall into one of these categories:

  • Have lived in the US as a permanent resident for at least five years
  • Have lived in the US for at least three years and have been married to a US citizen for the same length of time
  • Have served in the US Armed Forces

In addition to falling into a qualifying eligibility category, you must also be at least 18 years of age and able to speak, read, and write basic English.

You must also be able to prove that you’re a person of good moral character (i.e., you have not committed any severe crimes).

Becoming a US Citizen: Step by Step

If you are not already a US citizen and meet the basic requirements listed above, you’ve already completed the first two steps in the ten-step naturalization process. Listed below are the remaining eight steps you’ll have to take to become a citizen:

Prepare Form N-400

Form N-400 is your naturalization application. You can find this form online. Print it out and read through the instructions carefully to make sure you complete it correctly.

Be sure to follow the document checklist, too, to make sure you attach all necessary documentation to the application.

Submit Form N-400

After you’ve filled everything out and gone over it with a fine tooth comb, it’s time to submit your Form N-400.

Once it’s submitted, you’ll receive a receipt notice from USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). You can also check online to keep up with your case status.

Attend the Biometrics Appointment

USCIS may send you an appointment notice letting you know that you need to take biometrics. A biometrics appointment involves having your fingerprints and photo taken, as well as obtaining a copy of your signature.

Complete the Interview

At this point, USCIS will contact you to schedule an interview. You’ll take your English and civics tests at this time, as well.

You’ll need to complete your interview at the USCIS office at the date and time specified. Bring your appointment notice with you.

Receive a Decision

After the interview and test, you’ll receive a written notice from USCIS. The notice will let you know which of these three decisions they’ve made for you:

  • Granted: This means your Form-400 has been approved
  • Continued: This means USCIS needs more documentation/evidence for your case or that you need to retake the English and civics tests
  • Denied: This means USCIS has denied your Form-400 and you’re not eligible to become a US citizen

If USCIS does deny your application, they’ll let you know in the letter when you can reapply.

Receive a Notice to Take the Oath

If your application is approved, you’ll get to participate in a naturalization ceremony.

Sometimes, you can participate in this ceremony and take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States on the same day that your interview takes place.

If this isn’t the case for you, you’ll receive a notification from USCIS letting you know the date and time of your ceremony.

Take the Oath

During the ceremony, you’ll take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and officially become a US citizen. You’ll receive a certificate of naturalization, too.

Review What U.S. Citizenship Means

At this point, you’ll need to review what it means to be a US citizen and the rights and responsibilities you now have. 

This includes the right to vote, the responsibility to serve on a jury if you’re called, and the ability to bring family members from your home country into the United States.

Do You Need to Hire an Immigration Lawyer?

A lot of people wonder if they need to hire an immigration lawyer to help them through the process. As a general rule, you can complete the naturalization process without the help of a lawyer.

There are some good reasons to consider hiring a lawyer, though.

An immigration lawyer has a thorough understanding of the naturalization process. He or she will help you avoid making mistakes that could slow down the process or cause your application to get denied

A lawyer can also be helpful if you do have a criminal record or there are other issues that might preclude you from becoming a citizen. They can help with other issues, too. For example, if you were married to a US citizen and are now separated or have had tax problems in the past.

You don’t have to have an immigration lawyer, but it certainly helps and will give you peace of mind.

You Know How to Become a US Citizen: Now What?

The process of becoming a US citizen is challenging. There’s no doubt about it.

If you keep this information in mind, though, you’ll have a much easier time navigating the citizenship process. 

Now that you know how to become a US citizen, are you ready to start the process? Do you need to hire an immigration lawyer to help you? 

If you need help finding the right lawyer for the job, check out our business directory today. We’ll help you find a qualified, reputable immigration lawyer in your area.