Are you a Green Card holder who is looking to gain all the benefits of citizenship? If so, it may be time to look into naturalization. This article will help explain what naturalization means, who is eligible for it, and how the process generally goes.
What is naturalization?
Naturalization is the process through which a Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card holder) obtains citizenship. Naturalization allows people born outside of the United States to become citizens. There are many legal rights and benefits in the U.S. that are reserved solely for citizens. These benefits often motivate people to begin the naturalization process. They include:
- The right to vote
- Protection from deportation
- Green Card holders can be deported as a result of specific criminal convictions, whereas U.S. citizens and their children are protected from deportation
- Priority when bringing family members permanently to the U.S.
- Citizenship for children born abroad
- Children of naturalized citizens often automatically become a citizen when their parents do
- Access to a U.S. passport and its protections abroad
- Eligibility for federal jobs
Who can become naturalized?
The first step to naturalization is finding out if you are eligible for it. To access the Department of Homeland Security’s Eligibility Worksheet click here. This worksheet explains some exceptions to the general eligibility qualifications. The general guidelines are listed below.
- At least 18 years old.
- A Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) Holder.
- A Permanent Resident of the United States for at least 5 years.
- Has not spent one year or more outside of the U.S. during the last five years.
- Has lived at least 3 months in the state or USCIS district where applying.
- Can speak, read, and write basic English.
- Have a basic understanding of the U.S. government system.
- Demonstrates good moral character.
- This is evaluated in the context of an applicant’s community, by comparing their criminal record to the average citizen in their area.
- Understands and accepts the United States Constitution.
If these statements are all true for you, you are probably eligible to apply for naturalization.
What does the process of naturalization look like?
Applying for Naturalization
Once you know you are eligible for naturalization, the next step is filling out the Application for Naturalization and gathering all necessary documents. The application form is also known as a Form N-400. You must fill out the application completely and accurately and attach all required documents. If you fail to do so, your application will not be processed.
Although you can complete and submit the forms online yourself, many people seek legal assistance to avoid processing delays due to avoidable mistakes. Attorney Norman has helped countless immigrants gain citizenship through this process and she is here to walk you through every step along the way.
After your application is submitted and processed, USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) may send you a biometrics notice. USCIS does not need the biometrics of every applicant. If they need yours, they will send you an appointment notice with a date, time, and location. This means that you must go to this appointment in order for your Form N-400 to be processed.
When you go to the appointment, you must bring your Permanent Resident Card, the appointment notice, and the second form of identification. At the appointment, they will take your photo, fingerprints, and signature. After completing these steps, a USCIS officer will stamp your biometrics notice form as proof of completion. You should deliver this stamped paper to your attorney.
USCIS will then send your biometric information to the FBI for a background check. Once your biometric information has been processed and approved, USCIS will send you a naturalization interview appointment notice in the mail.
Prepare for Your Interview
During the interview portion of the naturalization process, a USCIS officer will ask you questions about your life and your application. There will also be English and civics tests. The English test will have speaking, reading, and writing sections. The civics test will ask questions about American history and government. To ensure that you can successfully complete your interview, Attorney Norman equips her clients with flashcards and practice booklets, which are available in Spanish or English. Below are some free public resources that can also help you prepare.
- Free Naturalization Information Session
- Take an English or Citizenship Preparation Class in Your Area
- Civics Practice Test
As previously stated, USCIS will mail you an interview appointment notice after your biometrics are processed and deemed acceptable. You must report to the USCIS office for your appointment at the date and time listed and bring the interview appointment notice, your Permanent Resident Card, state-issued identification and any documents that show your absences from the US since becoming a permanent resident. At the interview, you will complete the English and civics tests.
Following the interview, USCIS will deliver their decision on your Naturalization Application to you via mail. Your N-400 may be granted, continued, or denied. If your application is granted this means that you are eligible for naturalization. If your application is continued, this may mean a number of different things. For example, you may have failed to provide all necessary documents or failed the English and/or civics exams. A continuance can be resolved by addressing the issue that USCIS found, such as submitting additional documents or retaking an exam. If your Form N-400 is denied, that means you have been deemed ineligible for naturalization.
After you have successfully completed your interview and your Form N-400 is approved, the next, and final, step is the naturalization ceremony. After you complete the interview, USCIS will notify you of the date, time, and location of your ceremony. You are not a citizen until you attend your naturalization ceremony.
Prior to the naturalization ceremony, complete the questionnaire on Form N-445 (Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony). You must bring this completed form with you to your ceremony. Once you arrive at your ceremony and check in with USCIS, your N-445 will be reviewed. Then, you will turn in your Green Card and take an Oath of Allegiance. You must take this Oath to become a US citizen. Finally, you will receive your Certificate of Naturalization, which you should review for errors before leaving the ceremony location.
Attorney Norman is a seasoned immigration lawyer. She will help ensure that your naturalization is as efficient and uncomplicated as possible. Her services include: providing legal advice on what documents to include, explaining what your immigration options may be, ensuring your application is ready for submission, and assisting in communicating with USCIS throughout the process. To schedule an appointment call 781-599-7477.