How to Become a USA Citizen
Naturalization is the way immigrants become Citizens of the United States.
If you were not born a citizen, you become one through naturalization. Citizenship is a lifetime benefit bestowed upon you.
As a citizen, you get unique rights and privileges which include the right to vote, having a U.S. passport , the U.S. government's protection when abroad and the right to petition for green cards for your children and close relatives. As a U.S. citizen, you cannot be deported or lose your citizenship even if you commit a crime or choose to live elsewhere in the world, unless you misrepresented yourself to get citizenship or were ineligible at the time.
Who is Eligable
A person may become a U.S. citizen
1) by birth
2) through naturalization (applicable for Green Card holders/ Permanent Residents).
To become a US Citizen through Naturalization you must meet the following requirements;
Age - You must be at least 18 years old.
Residency - You must have been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence (have a Green card). Individuals who have been lawfully admitted as permanent residents will be asked to produce an I-551, Alien Registration Receipt Card, as proof of their status.
Residence and Physical Presence
You are eligible to file if, immediately preceding the filing of the application, you:
· were lawfully admitted for permanent residence;
· have resided continuously as a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) in the U.S. for at least 5 years prior to filing with no single absence from the United States of more than one year;
· have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the previous five years (absences of more than six months but less than one year will disrupt your continuity of residence unless the you can establish that you did not abandon your residence during this period)
· have resided within a state or district for at least three months
Good Moral Character
Generally, you must show that you have been a person of good moral character for the statutory period (typically five years or three years if married to a U.S. citizen or one year for Armed Forces expedite) prior to filing for naturalization. The Service is not limited to the statutory period in determining whether you have established good moral character. You are permanently barred from naturalization if you have ever been convicted of murder. You are also permanently barred from naturalization if you have been convicted of an aggravated felony as defined in section 101(a)(43) of the Act on or after November 29, 1990. You also cannot be found to be a person of good moral character if during the last five years you:
· committed and have been convicted of one or more crimes involving moral turpitude
· committed and have been convicted of 2 or more offenses for which the total sentence imposed was 5 years or more
· committed and have been convicted of any controlled substance law, except for a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana
· been confined to a penal institution during the statutory period, as a result of a conviction, for an aggregate period of 180 days or more
· committed and have been convicted of two or more gambling offenses
· have earned your principal income from illegal gambling
· have been involved in prostitution or commercialized vice
· have been involved in smuggling illegal aliens into the United States
· have been a habitual drunkard
· are practicing or have practiced polygamy
· have willfully failed or refused to support dependents
· have given false testimony, under oath, in order to receive a benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
You must disclose all relevant facts to the Service, including your entire criminal history, regardless of whether the criminal history disqualifies you under the enumerated provisions.
Attachment to the Constitution
You must show that you are attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States
You must be able to read, write, speak, and understand words in ordinary usage in the English language. Applicants exempt from this requirement are those who on the date of filing:
· have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for periods totaling 15 years or more and are over 55 years of age;
· have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for periods totaling 20 years or more and are over 50 years of age; or
· have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects the applicants ability to learn English
United States Government and History Knowledge
You must demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history and of the principles and form of government of the United States. Applicants exempt from this requirement are those who, on the date of filing, have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects the applicants ability to learn U.S. History and Government
Applicants who have been residing in the U.S. subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for at least 20 years and are over the age of 65 will be afforded special condsideration in satisfying this requirement.
Citizenship Quick Guide
1) If you meet the requirements to become a US Citizen, you can use the "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400) to apply for Citizenship.
2) You should send your completed form to the appropriate USCIS Service Center in your State.
3) The time it takes to be naturalized varies from one USCIS hearing office to another. The USCIS is currently modernizing and improving the naturalization process and projects it will take between 6 and 9 months to become naturalized.
4) After the USCIS has received your application, they will notify you of the location where you should get fingerprinted.
5) Do not miss your interview. If you cannot make your interview for any reason, you must notify the office where your interview is scheduled by mail as soon as possible. In your letter, you should ask to have your interview rescheduled. Rescheduling an interview may add several months to the naturalization process.
If an emergency arises and you absolutely cannot make your appointment, call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 to request rescheduling. The NCSC will record the information, and pass it on to your local office.
If you do not notify the USCIS, they will "administratively close" your case. If you do not contact the USCIS to schedule a new interview within 1 year after your case is closed, your application will be denied - full stop. The USCIS will NOT notify you if they close your case because you missed your interview.
6) If after your interview your application is denied, there will be an administrative review. If you believe that you have been wrongly denied naturalization, you may request a hearing with an immigration officer. Your denial letter will explain how to request a hearing and will include the form you need. The form for filing an appeal is the "Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings under Section 336 of the Act" (Form N-336).
The Oath of Allegiance
By taking the oath of allegiance you swear to:
· support the Constitution and obey the laws of the U.S.;
· renounce any foreign allegiance and/or foreign title; and
· bear arms for the Armed Forces of the U.S. or perform services for the government of the U.S. when required.
In exceptional circumstances, where the applicant establishes that they are opposed to any type of service in armed forces based on religious grounds, the USCIS will permit these applicants to take a modified oath.
The oath of allegiance is:
"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."
In some cases, USCIS allows the oath to be taken without the clauses:
". . .that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law. . ."