Home Personal Immigration law Citizenship through US Naturalization

Citizenship through US Naturalization

US naturalization is the process by which a non-US national can become a US citizen. Once naturalized, you may bring family members to the USA, travel abroad under a US passport, and vote in US elections.

Eligibility for US Naturalization

The eligibility requirements for US naturalization vary according to your personal circumstances, but you must come under one of the following to be eligible to apply:

  • You have been a US Permanent Resident for the last 5 years, have no special circumstances, have been continuously resident in the USA for those 5 years with no trips abroad for 6 months or longer, have been physically present in the USA for 30 months, and have lived in the USCIS district or state for which you are applying for 3 months.
  • You are currently married to and living with a US citizen, have been married to and living with that US citizen for the past 3 years, your spouse has been a US citizen for 3 years, you have been a Permanent Resident for the last 3 years, have been continuously resident in the USA for those 3 years with no trips abroad for 6 months or longer, have been physically present in the USA for 18 months, and have lived in the USCIS district or state for which you are applying for 3 months.
  • You are in the US armed forces or will be filing your application within 6 months of an honourable discharge, have served for a minimum of 1 year, and you are a US Permanent Resident on the day of your interview.
  • You were in the US armed forces for less than 1 year, or 18 years of age or older and in the US armed forces for 1 year or more but were discharged more than 6 months ago, have been a Permanent Residence for the last 5 years without leaving the USA for trips of 6 months or longer (unless your time abroad was with the US armed services), have been physically present in the USA for 30 months, and have lived in the USCIS district or state for which you are applying for 3 months.
  • You performed active military service during World War 1 (1917-1918), World War 2 (1939-1946), Korea (1950-1955), Vietnam (1961-1978), Persian Gulf (1990-1991), or on or after 11 September 2001.
  • You were married to a US citizen who died during a period of honourable active duty service in the US armed forces, you were married to and living with the US citizen at the time of their death, you are a Permanent Resident on the day of your interview, and are 18 years of age or older.
  • You are a US national (non-citizen who owes permanent allegiance to the USA), have become a resident of any state, are otherwise qualified for naturalization, have been physically present in the USA for 30 months, and meet the continuous residence requirements and time in an USCIS district or state that are eligible for your individual situation.
  • You served on a US vessel or served on a vessel registered in the USA and owned by US citizens or a US corporation, have been a Permanent Resident for the last 5 years, have been continuously resident in the USA for those 5 years with no trips abroad for 6 months or longer (unless serving on a vessel), have been physically present in the USA for 30 months, and have lived in the USCIS district or state for which you are applying for 3 months.
  • You are employed by or under contract to the US government, have been a Permanent Resident for the last 5 years, have been continuously resident in the USA for those 5 years with no trips abroad for 6 months or longer (time working in this capacity, no matter where you are, counts as time physically present in the country as long as you obtain an approved form N-470), have been physically present in the USA for 30 months, and have lived in the USCIS district or state for which you are applying for 3 months.
  • You perform in a ministerial or priestly capacity for a religious denomination or interdenominational organisation which has a valid presence in the USA, have been a Permanent Resident for the last 5 years, have been continuously resident in the USA for those 5 years with no trips abroad for 6 months or longer (time working in this capacity, no matter where you are, counts as time physically present in the country as long as you obtain an approved form N-470), have been physically present in the USA for 30 months, and have lived in the USCIS district or state for which you are applying for 3 months.
  • You are employed by a US institution of research which is recognised by the Attorney General, or an American-owned firm or corporation which is involved in the development of foreign trade and commerce for the US, or public international organisation of which the USA is a member by law or treaty if employment began after you became a Permanent Resident, have been a Permanent Resident for the last 5 years, have been continuously resident in the USA for those 5 years with no trips abroad for 6 months or longer (time working in this capacity, no matter where you are, counts as time physically present in the country as long as you obtain an approved form N-470), have been physically present in the USA for 30 months, and have lived in the USCIS district or state for which you are applying for 3 months.
  • You have been employed for at least 5 years by a US non-profit organisation which promotes the interests of the USA abroad through communications media, and have been a Permanent Resident for the last 5 years.

You are the spouse of a US citizen who is either:

  • a member of the US armed forces
  • or an employee of or under contract to the US government
  • or an employee of an American institution of research recognised by the Attorney General
  • or an employee of an American-owned firm or corporation which is engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce for the US
  • or an employee of a public international organisation of which the USA is a member by law or treaty
  • or a person in a ministerial or priestly capacity for a religious denomination or interdenominational organisation which has a valid presence in the USA,
  • you will join your spouse whose work abroad for their qualifying employer will continue for a minimum of 1 year after the date of your naturalization, and you will be a Permanent Resident at the time of your USCIS interview.

Other eligibility requirements

There are certain conditions which apply across all categories such as:

  • being 18 years of age or older (most categories)
  • being of good moral character
  • having an English and civics knowledge
  • being willing to form an attachment with the US constitution

In addition to the above, the following are general requirements on naturalization applicants:

Time as Permanent Resident, Continuous Residence and Physical Presence

In most of the eligibility categories above, a period of time already spent as a Permanent Resident in the USA will also be required before an individual can apply to naturalize.
Where continuous residence is required, it is obtained by not leaving the USA for long periods of time, usually no longer than 6 months. There are some exceptions to this, such as time abroad spent in the employ of the US armed forces.

Physical presence concerns the actual number of days you are present in the USA, and therefore does not include any time spent out of the country. You may have arrived in the USA 3 years ago, but if you spent 4 weeks of that time abroad, then your physical presence is 3 years less the 4 weeks.

Time as a Resident in a USCIS District or State

Generally, you must reside in the USCIS district or state where you are making your application for naturalization for a minimum of 3 months.

Good Moral Character

Having a good moral character takes into account whether you have been truthful in your application and interview, have a criminal record, or have taken part in some other activity or behaviour which would suggest that you do not have a good moral character.

English and Civics

You must have the ability to read, write and speak English, and an understanding and knowledge of American history, laws and government.
You can obtain guidance materials from USCIS to help with English and civics tests, including finding where you can attend English classes.

Attachment to the Constitution

Anyone applying for naturalization must be willing to defend and support the USA and its constitution. You declare this intent by taking the Oath of Allegiance to renounce foreign allegiances, support the constitution and serve the USA.

How to apply for US Naturalization

Applications for US naturalization are made using form N-400.
Complete the N400 form as fully and truthfully as possible, gathering any supporting documents (such as photocopies of your Permanent Resident Card). Retain a copy of the form, once completed, for your own records.

Wherever you send a copy document with your N-400 form, you should ensure that you bring the original document to your interview, if requested.

Send your N400 form, supporting documents, and application fee to the USCIS Lockbox that serves your area.

Biometrics

Once you have filed your application with USCIS, you will receive a letter stating where and when you may have your biometrics taken.

When you attend your biometrics appointment you should take:

  • ASC appointment notice (form I-797C)
  • Permanent Resident Card
  • a form of identification which displays your photo, such as a driver’s licence or passport

You may be asked to bring additional documents, such as a marriage certificate, depending on your personal circumstances.

At the interview, your fingerprints will be taken, you will be photographed, and asked to provide your signature. Your fingerprints will be forwarded to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) in order to carry out a criminal background check.

Additional Information

At this point, USCIS may request additional documents from you before they can arrange your interview. If this is the case, you will receive a letter outlining the information required.

Interview

Once everything is in place, an interview will be arranged for you. USCIS will send you a letter informing you of your interview date, time and venue.

On the day of your interview, you should arrive 30 minutes before the scheduled time, and bring the following:

  • Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Card
  • passport
  • State Identification Card
  • Re-entry Permits, if you have any

You may be asked to bring additional documents depending on your personal circumstances. These will be mentioned in your appointment letter.

You will be interviewed by an USCIS officer who will question you on your background, evidence submitted in support of your application, your place and length of residence, and your character among other areas, required to satisfy the USCIS officer that you are eligible for US naturalization.

You may take a representative with you to your interview, but you must have sent a Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative form (G-28) with your application form. If you are exempt from the English requirements, you may take an interpreter with you. If you have any disabilities, you may be accompanied by a relative or legal guardian at the discretion of the USCIS officer.

Your English skills will be tested during your interview unless you are exempt from the English requirements, and you will also be asked to take a civics test.
Once your interview is over, you will be given an N-652 form, stating the results of your interview. Your application for naturalization will either be granted, put on hold, or denied.

Should your application be granted, you will either be asked to attend an oath ceremony on the day of your interview or sent a notice informing you of when and where your oath ceremony will take place.

Should your application be put on hold (continued), you will be asked to attend a second interview or to provide additional documents.

Should your application be denied, you will receive a letter stating the reasons.

Taking the Oath

Unless you are asked to attend an oath ceremony on the day of your interview, you will receive a Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony (form N-445), stating when and where you should attend an oath ceremony.

On the day of the ceremony, you should dress smartly, arrive 30 minutes early, and check in with USCIS. You will be asked to return your Permanent Resident Card when you check in. You may be questioned further before the ceremony takes place. These questions will be listed on the back of the N-445 form that you received.

At the oath ceremony, you will be asked to recite the Oath of Allegiance so that you may become a US citizen.

After you have taken the oath, you will be given your Certificate of Naturalization which is proof of your status as a US citizen.

How legal advice can help with your US Naturalization Application

Applying for US naturalization is a life-changing step. With stakes so high, take legal advice before embarking on the process to ensure you meet all the eligibility requirements, and satisfy the application process requirements on you.

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