The following is a brief description of the naturalization process.
How to Apply for U.S. Citizenship
Step 1: Application for Naturalization
Submit a Naturalization Application (Form N-400) and pay the filing fee (unless exempted; see details above). You have the choice to complete and submit a paper application or do everything online. If you submit an application online, you must first create an account online with the US Citizenship and Naturalization Service (USCIS).
If you make the request based on your military service, if you are filing from abroad, or seeking a reduction or exemption of fees, you cannot complete your application online. You must mail your request to the appropriate USCIS office.
A 90-Day Advance Filing Rule
For those seeking to expedite the process, you can take advantage of a 90-day advance filing rule; you can send your N-400 to USCIS as soon as 90 days before reaching your three or five-year waiting period as a green card holder. Nevertheless, you must have met all other requirements of eligibility, and you must still wait three or five full years to become a US citizen. The early submission allows you to move forward in the application process rather than wait it out. Hire a citizenship lawyer to guide you in filling out Form N-400 completely and accurately.
Step 2: Biometrics Appointment
The next step is to schedule your biometrics appointment. Your fingerprints will be taken at your local USCIS office. For the marriage-based green card process, USCIS will do the fingerprinting during naturalization, for the purpose of enabling them to perform the necessary background check. The fingerprinting appointment generally takes place approximately one month after USCIS receives your U.S. citizenship application.
Step 3: Interview and Citizenship Test
What to Expect During the Interview
The citizenship interview is usually scheduled about 14 months after submitting your application. However, the exact time it will take to process your naturalization request depends largely on the local USCIS office handling your case, which is assigned based on the applicant’s zip code.
During the interview, a USCIS officer will verify that all the information in your naturalization request is correct. The interview is usually held at the nearest USCIS office. If you apply from abroad, you will attend the interview at a US embassy or consulate. If you are on active military service, your interview can be conducted in a military installation.
What the Exam is About
During the interview, the USCIS officer will also give you a two-part naturalization test (unless you qualify for an exemption. (This is the reason the citizenship interview is also known as a “citizenship test.”) The first part of the test is an English test language, which will evaluate your spoken and written English skills. The second, a civic education test will assess your knowledge of US history and basic information on how the US government works.
These tests are quite basic, and USCIS provides study materials to help you prepare. You will also have two chances to take the exams by request. You may retake the test later and retake only the portion that you did not pass the first time. A citizenship lawyer can also help you prepare for this exam. Thus, there is no reason to worry or stress yourself, thinking you will not pass.
If you pass the interview and the exam, the USCIS officer will approve your request at the end of the interview. In some cases, USCIS may request additional documentation or schedule a second interview.
If you are not approved, USCIS will send you a rejection letter explaining why, but you can appeal your decision within 30 days of receiving the notice or request it again. A USCIS policy on denied applications that took effect on September 11, 2018, underlines the importance of submitting the correct information on the naturalization application and meeting all the requirements correctly the first time. This is just another reason why the services of lawyers for citizenship are so vital in the naturalization process.
Step 4: Pledge of Allegiance
Finally, you have reached probably the most emotional stage of the process, as many who have experienced it testify. Upon approval of your application, you will attend a ceremony to take the oath of allegiance. You must complete this step. You are not a US citizen until you have made the Pledge of Allegiance.
After your citizenship interview, you will then receive a notice in the mail with information regarding the date, time, and location of the oath-taking ceremony (usually a local court or USCIS office). How long it takes to schedule the ceremony varies by state.
You will be asked to return your green card when you register. Once the ceremony is over, you will receive a Certificate of Naturalization and begin your life as a US citizen!