Becoming a citizen of the United States has many benefits and privileges. As a citizen of the United States, you can vote in elections, run for public office, and sponsor foreign citizen family members for permanent residency. If you are not already a citizen, you can apply for citizenship through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by filing an application for naturalization using USCIS Form N-400. Anyone who meets the conditions of naturalization may apply.
Ways to become a Citizen
There are two ways a person can gain citizenship. The most common is by birth in the United States or a U.S. territory. You are also considered a United States citizen if you are born in a foreign country to parents that are United States citizens. If you were not born in the United States or not born to U.S. parents, you can file the application form N-400 to begin the process of naturalization, assuming that eligibility requirements for naturalization can be met.
Conditions for Becoming a Citizen
You must be considered eligible for naturalization in order to file the application form N-400 for citizenship into the United States. One condition of eligibility is that you must live continuously in the United States for at least five years. There are some exceptions to this rule, like if you were employed in certain overseas jobs or if you were on active military service. You must also prove you are a person of good moral character.
In other words, you can not have a serious criminal record, can not participate in any criminal activity, and must swear to uphold all laws of the United States. Another condition of becoming a citizen of the United States is a basic understanding and ability to communicate in English. You must also understand basic American politics and basic history of the United States. You will be tested on these subjects at the end of your citizenship application process, but some people may be exempt from certain exam requirements.
Steps to Become a United States Citizen
You must first correctly complete and submit your Application for Naturalization Form N-400. During this process you will need to provide documentation that proves you meet residency requirements. You will need to provide two passport photos and pay the required filing fee. Once your Application for Naturalization Form N-40 is filed with all necessary documents and fees you will receive a letter from the USCIS to setup an appointment for fingerprinting.
Once the USCIS is satisfied with the documents you have provided and you have gone through the fingerprinting process you will receive another letter for an interview regarding your request for citizenship. This interview will consist of a series of questions asked by an immigration official to make sure that you are eligible to become a United States Citizen. This will also be the time you will take the naturalization exam.
After successfully going through the interview process and passing the citizenship test, a citizenship ceremony will be held. During this ceremony you will take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States to finalize the process, and you will receive a certificate of naturalization. You will also relinquish your green card during this time, as it will no longer be necessary for you to possess a green card as a citizen.
Although not required, individuals who are interested in applying for U.S. citizenship by naturalization should speak with an experienced immigration attorney. The attorney will help the person determine whether or not eligibility requirements are met and, if so, can help the person file the necessary forms with the government.