U.S. citizenship has many benefits. As an American citizen, you could vote, travel with a U.S. passport, become eligible for federal jobs and bring family members to the country. If you have a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card), you may qualify for naturalization, the process by which a lawful resident can obtain U.S. citizenship.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), more than 8 million people have become U.S. citizens through naturalization in the past decade. This could also be your case if you meet certain requirements. To be eligible for naturalization, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a Green Card
- Demonstrate continuous permanent residence in the U.S. for at least 5 years
- Show that you have been physically present in the U.S. for 30 months
- Prove that you have lived for at least 3 months in the state where you claim residence
- Understand, read, write and speak English
- Know about U.S. history and government
- Support the principles and ideals of the U.S. constitution
- Take the Oath of Allegiance
The requirements are slightly different for those who got their Green Card through marriage. Spouses of U.S. citizens can apply for naturalization if they demonstrate continuous residence in the U.S. for at least 3 years. Also, they have to show they have been physically present in the U.S for only 18 months.
If you are eligible for naturalization, you need to file Form N-400 to start your application. In the form, you will need to include the evidence that demonstrates your eligibility for naturalization. The USCIS may require you to go to a biometrics appointment after you submit your form. In the biometrics appointment, you will be fingerprinted and photographed so that the USCIS can run a criminal background check on you. After the USCIS takes your biometrics, you will receive an appointment for your naturalization interview at a later date.
The interview is the most important part of the process, so you must not miss it. At the interview, a USCIS officer will ask you some questions about the things you included in your application. Depending on your case, you may need to bring some documents to the interview:
- All valid and expired passports
- Certified tax returns for the last 5 years (or 3 years if you have a U.S. spouse)
- Your Green Card and a state-issued identification
- A copy of your marriage certificate, divorce decree or death certificate of your former spouse
At the interview, the officer will also test you on your knowledge of U.S. history and government. This test is critical, and you must study for it. You can find study materials on the USCIS’s webpage.
Becoming a U.S. citizen
After the interview, the USCIS will grant or deny your application. If the USCIS denies your application, you have the right to request a hearing with the court. If they grant it, you will need to take the Oath of Allegiance to receive your certificate of naturalization. With the certificate, you’ll become a U.S. citizen and have the same rights and responsibilities as those born in the country.