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How to Become a US Citizen – Complete Guidelines

Are you looking to become a US citizen or a permanent United States resident? Having that vision of the American dream is a country with many opportunities for professional growth and development. US citizenship gives many immigrants immense privileges, rights, and benefits like any other US citizen or permanent resident.

However, this vision of the American dream attracts them to the United States. Individuals from all over the world seek opportunities to achieve a better life for themselves and their families. Therefore, if you are a foreign national seeking to permanently immigrate to the United States, you can accomplish this by getting a green card. Which lets you become a permanent resident of the country.

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There are specific primary paths you can follow to obtain US citizenship. Therefore, this article will provide full details on how to become a US citizen, briefing you on the various paths to US citizenship, eligibility requirements, how to apply, and other important information about getting US citizenship.

How to Become a US Citizen – Overview

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The first step to gaining US citizenship begins with immigration. In other words, you will have to first immigrate to the United States and become a permanent resident to become a US citizen. This process involves applying for a “green card, ” the most common way people begin with when applying for US citizenship.

A green card is an identity card about the size of a wallet; it shows that a person has a permanent residence in the US. That is to say that it lets the holder live and work in the United States permanently. Most green cards are usually valid for ten years. It expires after your authorized stay, although it is renewable. The green card lets you live and work permanently in the United States and enjoy certain privileges like other US citizens, but they are limited.

Moreover, the United States grants green cards to immigrants with specific characteristics such as job offers from a US employer, visa lottery, family relationships, investments, etc. But that’s not why we are here; a foreigner can obtain US citizenship in four (4) primary paths. There is US citizenship by birth, citizenship through derivation, citizenship acquisition, and citizenship through neutralization.

However, we will give an overview of the four primary paths to US citizenship.

Citizenship by Birth:

Citizenship by birth can also be under citizenship through acquisition. However, under the law of the United States, any person born within the country is automatically granted US citizenship. Besides, even if the person wasn’t born in the US, he or she might still be able to gain citizenship by birth. This is possible if the person was born in United States territories like the US Virginia Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, or the Northern Mariana Islands.

Although, there is one exception to this rule: children whose parents are members of a sovereign Native American tribe or foreign diplomats.

Citizenship Through Acquisition:

In this path of gaining US citizenship, a child automatically acquires citizenship regardless of his or her country of birth, but only in certain circumstances. However, those circumstances are as follows:

  • That both of the child’s parents were US citizens and were also married at the time of birth. Also, either parent must have lived in the United States or its territories before the child’s birth.
  • Either of the parents was a US citizen at the time of the child’s birth. Moreover, the birth date should be before November 14, 1986, but after October 10, 1952. They must also be married at the time of birth and live in the US for at least ten years before the child’s birth.

Citizenship Through Derivation:

Furthermore, when a parent gains citizenship through naturalization, children under 18 still living with their parents at that moment may automatically derive citizenship. Provided that specific requirements are met, such as:

  • Either one parent must be a US citizen
  • The child must have a US lawful permanent resident (LPR) status
  • Also, the child must be in the care of the US citizen parent

Citizenship Through Naturalization:

Becoming a citizen through naturalization is a process in which a non-U.S. citizen voluntarily becomes American. This is the most common way foreigners gain US citizenship. There are specific requirements one must meet to gain citizenship through naturalization. Besides, only certain immigrants can be eligible, such as those with legal permanent resiresidenttus for 3-5 years or meeting some military service requirements.

However, there may be different requirements for you depending on your situation, such as

  • Lawful Permanent Resident of 5 Years
  • Married to a U.S. Citizen
  • Serving in the U.S. Military
  • Child of a U.S. Citizen

But here are the basic requirements for applying for naturalization:

  • Be at least 18 years of age or older at the time of application
  • You have been a green card holder (lawful permanent resident) for the previous three or five years, depending on your status.
  • Have continuous residence and physical presence in the United States
  • You must be able to read, write, and speak basic English
  • Demonstrate good moral character
  • You will have to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government
  • Be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance.
  • Demonstrate loyalty to the principles of the U.S. Constitution

How to Apply for US Citizenship (The Naturalization Process)

Meanwhile, the following is an overview of how to apply for US citizenship through the naturalization process. Therefore, after you confirm and meet the eligibility requirements for citizenship through naturalization, you can then begin the application process, which is as follows:

1. Naturalization Application:

Moreover, you may either apply for naturalization online or by paper. To apply online, you will need to create a USCIS online account and then follow these steps:

  • Submit evidence and pay fees electronically;
  • Receive case status updates about your case and see complete case history;
  • Communicate with us securely and directly; and
  • Respond to requests for evidence.

Meanwhile, US citizenship through naturalization application by the paper process is as follows:

  • You must read the instructions for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  • Complete and sign your Form N-400
  • Pay the filing fee, if applicable
  • Provide all necessary evidence and supporting documentation.

2. Appointment for Biometrics:

After filing for naturalization, once the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) receives your Form N-400. You will receive a notice confirming that they have received your application. After reviewing your application, you receive a biometric services appointment notice and a notice to appear for an interview.

However, the biometrics appointment to take your fingerprints is essential for the naturalization process. This is to conduct a background check and confirm the information you provide. It usually takes place about a month after the USCIS receives and reviews your naturalization application.

3. Interview and Exam:

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A few months after the biometrics appointment, you will receive a notice about an appointment date and time for an interview with USCIS. You will also take your naturalization test during this interview. It is the last step to obtaining US citizenship through naturalization.

During the interview, the officer will go through your application and background. The citizenship exam is a two-part test; the first is an English language test focusing on your written and spoken English skills, and the second is a civic test.

4. The Oath of Allegiance Ceremony:

This is the final step of the Naturalization process; you have passed the citizenship interview and test. Once your application is approved, you will receive a notification of the date, time, and location to attend the Oath of Allegiance ceremony.

However, you are not a US citizen until you have taken the Oath of Allegiance. Therefore, you must complete the process because this is where you will receive your naturalization certificate and become a U.S. citizen.

Benefits of Naturalization/ Obtaining US Citizenship

However, as we mentioned earlier, green card holders have the authorization to live, work and study in the United States permanently with certain advantages. But the new status as a US citizen gives the immigrant rights and privileges that are not available to green card holders. These rights and licenses include:

  • You will be able to obtain federal benefits available only to US citizens, including Medicare, Social security, pension, etc. Which may only be available to green card holders for a limited time.
  • You can also sponsor your relatives by applying for green cards on their behalf.
  • Being able to vote in the US election and even run for elected office
  • Your children automatically gain US citizenship, even if born outside the United States.
  • Travel abroad with one of the most recognized and influential passports in the world
  • Moreover, you can no longer be deported to your country of former citizenship or nationality.
  • You can be able to work in any government, private or public office in the United States
  • You will be able to live permanently in the US

Furthermore, certain obligations come with obtaining US citizenship which you must fulfill. They are as follows:

  • You must obey the laws of the United States of America
  • You will serve the country when it calls on you
  • Pay your taxes promptly
  • Give up all your loyalty to any other country or sovereignty etc.

How to Obtain US Citizenship Through Marriage

This process requires the spouse, a US citizen, to petition for a foreign partner. However, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be a green card holder (a Lawful Permanent Resident) for at least three years before applying for US citizenship.
  • You must prove that you have been a continuous resident of the United States during those three years and that you were physically present in the country for at least a year and a half.
  • Moreover, you must have lived as a married couple with your spouse, who has US citizenship.
  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • Be able to read, speak, and write English.
  • You must also possess good moral character.

People also ask

There are two ways to become a United States (U.S.) citizen – by birth or through naturalization.

Most common paths to U.S. Citizenship:

1. I am the Child of a U.S. Citizen.
2. I am Married to a U.S. Citizen.
3. I am Serving in the U.S. Military.
4. I am a Lawful Permanent Resident of 5 Years.

What qualify you to become a U.S. citizen?

In general, you may qualify for naturalization if you are at least 18 years old and have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years (or 3 years if you are married to a U.S. citizen) and meet all other eligibility requirements.

How long does it take to become a U.S. citizen right now?

The national average processing time for naturalization (citizenship) applications is 14.5 months. But that’s just the application processing wait time (see “Understanding USCIS Processing Times” below). The overall naturalization process involves more steps and a longer citizenship timeline.

What are the 7 steps to become a U.S. citizen?

1. Requirements for Naturalization.
2. Download Application and Collect Documents Needed.
3. Submit the Form.
4. Schedule an appointment for fingerprints.
5. Complete the interview.
6. Receive a decision.
7. Taking the Oath of Allegiance.

What is the fastest way to become a U.S. citizen?

The fastest way to become a U.S. citizen is to be born in the United States. How long do you have to live in the US to become a citizen? You may qualify for naturalization and become a U.S. citizen if you have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years. 3 years in case you are married to a U.S. citizen.

US Citizenship Through Marriage Process

Furthermore, your spouse must submit a Form I-130 petition for an Alien relative. This form establishes a relationship between you and your spouse. However, you will also need to prove the marriage by providing certain documents, such as a marriage certificate.

Moreover, if you already legally live with your spouse in the US, your status can be adjusted as soon as you complete Form I-130. But you will also need to complete another Form I-485, an application to register for Permanent Residency or Adjust your Status.

Besides, if you are outside the US, the process will have to wait until your visa is available and you attend an interview at the US embassy or consulate in your country of residence. You can then continue with the process above afterward. However, you will hear a marriage interview after adjusting your status. This is a way the USCIS tries to protect against marriage fraud,

The USCIS officer or interviewer will ask you and your spouse personal questions to determine the originality of your marriage. After the interview, you can proceed with the naturalization process by applying for your Form N-400.

Additional Notes

You should understand by now that you can only become a US citizen at birth or after birth. You can obtain US citizenship by birth if you were born in the United States or in any of the US territories or if you were born abroad to either or both parents with US citizenship. While after birth, you can get in two ways: acquire/ derive citizenship through your parents or by naturalization.

However, obtaining US citizenship can take up to five months or more. Moreover, the cost and payment for the naturalization process range from $700 to $1,200 for both application fees and biometric services. This is due to the recent increment of %83 in the process.

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