The United States is a country that was founded on the principles of freedom and equality. And these are the same principles that are at the heart of our nation’s founding documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Becoming a citizen is a privilege that many people around the world yearn for, but not everyone is eligible to become one. US citizenship can be obtained through naturalization, your parents, and even through your parents, kids or marriage. There are many ways to obtain U.S. Citizenship, and in this article we will cover how to apply for citizenship, the different aspects of getting U.S. citizenship, and the requirements for the naturalization.
Where Do We Find the Laws About Ways to Become a US Citizen?
Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in states that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Now most if not all of us know that although this did not include African Americans or Native Americans, further laws that were enacted changed this.
What are the General Requirements for Citizenship through Naturalization?
There are several ways to become a citizen for people who were not born in the United States. The most common way is through a process called naturalization. In order to be eligible, a person must show that they meet the following requirements:
- They are at least 18 years of age;
- They have been a legal permanent resident for at least 5 years (3 if conditional residency);
- Proof they have lived in the US for the last 5 years; and
- Show that they are a person of good moral character.
What does the Citizenship Process Look Like?
The process consists of several steps within the United States. After meeting these requirements, a person must get fingerprinted, take a photograph, attend an immigration interview, take a written, reading, and oral exam in English, and pass the civics test. A person does not need to take the English language test if they qualify for an exception. If the meet the exception, they can take the exam in their native language. The first common exception applies if a person is over the age of 50, and has been a legal permanent resident for over 20 years. The second common exception applies to people who are over 55 and have been legal permanent residents for over 15 years. If they pass the exam, they will have their ceremony and be sworn in as a US Citizen.
Additionally, the processing time varies by USCIS Field Office. While some offices may take months, other may take a year or more. The most accurate way to get an estimate is to view the USCIS Processing time website.
What is the Naturalization Interview Like?
When you arrive at your appointment, you will need to be checked in and go through a metal detector. Once you pass this, you will then go to a lobby and wait for a USCIS officer to call your name or number. The USCIS officer will take you to his or her office, where the interview will then begin. You will be asked the civics questions, and you will be asked at most 10 questions and you must answer at least 6 correctly to pass. If you fail, you will only get 1 more opportunity. The USCIS officer will ask questions about your application that are based off of the n400 that was submitted. A lot of these questions require a yes or no answer, but some allow for further discussion. If you have any sort of criminal or immigration violations, it is highly recommend you speak with an immigration attorney to review your case.
When you begin to enter the end of the interview, the immigration officer will take your oath of allegiance where you agree to be faithful to the laws and to the United States of America. If you pass your naturalization interview, the officer will not return your green card. The officer will keep it, and give you a notice that will provide more information about the next steps. This notice, should advise you about the naturalization ceremony wear you will take the oath of allegiance.
How to become a us citizen without Marriage?
If you are already a legal permanent resident, or as it is commonly known an LPR, there are options to apply for citizenship. For this category, you must be at least 18 years old. Additionally, you must also show that you have been a legal permanent resident for at least 5 years, and that you have also been residing in the USA for the last 5 years. Now, you can travel abroad and take vacations, but you must show that you have spent more time in the USA, than outside of the USA. It can get complicated, but in short, these are the basics. For example, if you obtained your permanent residence through your parents, and are single, you will eventually be able to take the exam on your own. You do this by filling out form n-400. If you have any questions about this, you should call our immigration attorneys that have handled numerous n-400 applications for naturalization.
How to become a US Citizen with marriage to a U.S. American Citizen?
If you are married to a US Citizen, you do have some benefits for citizenship by naturalization. The main benefit, is that you will only need to wait 3 year before you begin the citizenship application process. You do have to be a legal permanent resident while you are completing the naturalization process. For most green card holders at this point, you will already be a lawful permanent resident with no conditions on your green card. That said, all the other requirements for this naturalization and citizenship process still exist. You still have to be over the age of 18, you have to show you have been physically present in the U.S. for the stated time, and that you meet all other citizenship requirements.
How to become a US Citizen with DACA?
Is is possible to apply for naturalization if you have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)? The short answer is that there no direct path to citizenship if you have DACA. That said, there are some ways DACA can open some doors to obtain legal permanent residency. Once you have legal permanent residency, you have a better shot of obtaining citizenship. A DACA applicant can generally obtain a green card through a family or employment visa depending on the circumstances. You can read about DACA and advance parole here.
To Become a US Citizen, how much does it cost?
The federal government, citizenship and naturalization (USCIS) as of 08/15/2022, charges $725 to apply for the naturalization application. Whenever the application is submitting to USCIS, this fee needs to be paid. If you are reading this article, the fee may have changed, and you should visit the USCIS website to get the most up to date information. Additionally, it is important to remember that the n-400 applications for naturalization allow for fee waiver and partial fee wavier requests. In order to be eligible for a full fee waiver that waives the complete $725 fee, you have to show that you receive a public benefit, or are low income based on the federal guidelines.
How to Obtain Citizenship through Military Service?
Citizenship through military service is obtained by serving in the armed forces. The requirements for citizenship vary from country to country, but usually include completing a certain period of service and taking an oath of allegiance. In the United States, the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program previously allows for undocumented individuals to join the U.S. military and obtain citizenship within the Untied States without first becoming a lawful permanent resident. The MAVNI program was created in 2009 to recruit non-citizens with specific language and medical skills in order to gain citizenship. The program allowed for expedited citizenship for those who served in the military for at least 180 days. The program was halted by former President Trump in 2017 amid concerns that the program was being used by foreign spies to infiltrate the military.
Does the Citizenship and Immigration Services Allow Dual Citizenship?
If you become a United States citizen, you can have dual citizenship with another country. You just have to remain faithful to the US. There are other countries that prevent you from having dual citizenship, so often times, the question will be on whether your other country allows for dual citizenship. US law does not require a person to choose one citizenship over another.
How to become a US citizen without speaking English?
You can apply to take your naturalization test in your native language if you meet one of the following exceptions:
- You are 50 years or older and have lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years, OR
- You are 55 years or older and have lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 15 years, OR
- You are 65 years or older and have lived in the Untied States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years.
How to Obtain Citizenship by Birth or From a Citizen Parent?
Some people may already be a US Citizen and not even know. If you were born outside of the United States, and one or both of your parents are citizens of the United States, you may be eligible to acquire citizenship through parents. If one or both of you parents are US Citizens, you should speak with an immigration attorney to see whether you are already a Citizen. The eligibility for these categories is very fact intensive. In other words, a lot depends on whether your parents lived in the U.S. , time in the USA, when you were born, whether your parents were married or unmarried, and whether it was your father or mother that is a citizen.
In this scenario, you may need to submit an application for certificate of citizenship or apply outside of the United States for a passport with the embassy or consulate in your country.
Can I Get a Passport After Obtaining US Citizenship?
Yes. After you become a citizen of the US, you are eligible for an American passport. The way to obtain a passport card or book is to apply for one with the Department of State. The good news is that with your citizen status you already accomplished the hard part. How long it takes to get a passport is about 8 - 11 weeks. You can also pay an expedited fee to get your passport in about 5 to 7 weeks. To travel to another country, a citizen must has a USA passport. There are limited exceptions for minors, but the recommendation is for citizens to have a passport for international travel. You can use your passport as proof that you are eligible to live and work in the United States.