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Published On: Fri, Sep 16th, 2022

What’s The Process To Become A U.S. Citizen?

Becoming a citizen of a new country is an exciting time full of possibilities, but it’s not always a simple process. There are many steps, laws, and even barriers to becoming a United States citizen. Even getting a visa for something like college or work can be complex, and being granted citizenship is that much more intensive.

While citizenship and naturalization laws in the U.S. are complicated, here are the main points you need to know about becoming a U.S. citizen. 

photo Ged Carroll

Keep in mind that the best way to get help with any specific citizenship journey or legal situation is to work with an immigration attorney, but for an overview of the process, this guide is here to help.

The Four Main Ways To Gain Citizenship

When looking at things from a simplified point of view, there are four overall pathways to gaining U.S. citizenship. These are:

  1. Marriage: If a non-citizen marries a U.S. citizen, they can apply for a green card. From there, they can adjust their status after going through a process that includes an interview.
  2. Military: Someone who has served in the U.S. military can become a citizen as long as they meet other requirements, such as being able to read and write in English.
  3. By parentage: The legal requirements vary, but if your parents live in the United States, even if you weren’t born here, it’s often easier to become a citizen.
  4. Naturalization: This is the process of becoming a citizen after living in the United States legally for a period of time. This guide will mainly look at this process.

To become a naturalized citizen, you must meet various requirements.

Steps To Becoming A Naturalized Citizen

Many government websites go over the process and requirements for naturalization. Overall, these are the criteria that must be met:

  • The individual must be at least 18 when they file their application.
  • They must be a permanent resident of the country for three-five years. This usually means they are living here already with a green card.
  • The person must have lived continually in the country.
  • They must be able to read, speak, and write in English.
  • The individual has to have upstanding moral character, which usually means they have a clean criminal record.
  • They have to understand and have studied the U.S. government and history.
  • The person must show their loyalty to the constitution and swear an Oath of Allegiance. 

While these all sound reasonably straightforward, it can take time to go through the process. 

The 10 Steps

Now that you know the basic overview of the requirements for naturalization, it’s time to look at the governor’s ten specific steps. Remember that a citizenship and naturalization lawyer can assist you through this often complex process:

  1. Ensure you are not already considered a U.S. citizen.
  2. Check your eligibility requirements.
  3. Fill out the Form N-400 that can be found online. 
  4. Submit the form and pay the associated fees.
  5. Set up and attend a biometrics appointment, if necessary.
  6. Complete an interview with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  7. Wait to see if you are approved.
  8. Get a notice about swearing an Oath of Allegiance.
  9. Be sworn in.
  10. Learn more about U.S. citizenship and what being a new citizen means.

This guide is meant to help you understand the overall process of gaining citizenship, primarily through naturalization. For more information on green cards and other citizenship routes, you can look at government websites or reach out to organizations in your area that help people with citizenship. 

Author: Anna Johansson

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