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How Long Does It Take to Become a U.S. Citizen?

How Long Does It Take to Become a U.S. Citizen
There is no set timeframe for how long the naturalization process takes, but most cases are typically completed in 14 months from the date the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives the application. To apply for United States citizenship, you must be over 18 years of age; have a resident green card; have lived in America for the past five consecutive years, or three years if you are married to a U.S. citizen; and live in the same state or USCIS district in which you are currently residing for at least three months. The application process can take slightly more than a year from start to finish, though the process for some applicants may be shorter depending on where you reside. The following are the steps you must take to become a citizen of the United States, along with approximate timelines.

Step One: Filing the Application for Naturalization

The first step in the process of becoming a United States citizen is to file an Application for Naturalization (Form N-400). The sooner you can collect all your supporting documentation and submit the package, the sooner the process will start. You must have all the required supporting documents in the correct format and order, check that the application is complete, and ensure you have answered correctly. Missing and incorrect information slows the application progress or causes denial of the application, and you would have to start over from the beginning. Additionally, if your documents are not written in English, you must acquire a certified English translation of each document. It is important to notify USCIS if you have a change of address before the process is completed to prevent missing important notifications. Timeline. The length of time this step takes is entirely dependent on you and how long it takes you to gather the appropriate supporting documentation and fill out the application.

Step Two: The Biometrics Appointment

As part of the naturalization process, you will be required to appear and provide your fingerprints, photos, and signature, which are used to confirm your identity and for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to perform a background check for prior criminal activity. Do not miss this appointment, as doing so can cause your application to be denied. You will also need to bring the appointment letter you received; your green card; and a second form of identification, such as a passport, state ID, or a driver’s license, to the appointment. If you fail to bring these documents to the biometrics appointment, you will have to return a second time, slowing down the overall progress of naturalization. It is not uncommon to be called in for a second biometrics appointment for other reasons as well. It is somewhat rare, but should the FBI reject your fingerprints, USCIS will send you a second appointment letter to have your fingerprints taken again. If rejected a second time, you will be required obtain a police clearance certificate from the police department in every place you have lived over the past five years. You may also receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS asking for additional supporting documentation and will state the documents needed. Timeline. Approximately one month after USCIS receives the application, you will receive a Notice of Action letter with the details of when and where your biometrics appointment will take place.

Step Three: Citizenship Exam and Interview

Interview. This step is near the end of the process. You will receive a letter from USCIS with the date and location of your interview and a list of supporting materials you must bring with you. Please note that USCIS will send this letter only one time; should you not open it or miss it, you will not receive another. To prevent this from happening, make sure your address on file with USCIS is correct and be sure to inform them of any address changes throughout the process. It is best to rearrange your schedule to attend the interview. You are permitted to request another appointment if you are unable to attend; however, receiving notice of the second date and location can be several months later. If you have no choice but to reschedule, you need to submit a written request to the office where the interview was to take place. Exam. The citizenship exam is usually administered in conjunction with the interview. The test is given in two parts, an English test and a civics text. Both are given orally to discern your ability to read, write, speak, and understand English, and are knowledgeable on United States history and government workings. Should you not pass the exam, you will be required to retake it and asked to return to the same office generally in 60 to 90 days following the first exam. It is highly recommended that you take any and every opportunity to study for this exam during the naturalization process. There are available practice exams on the USCIS website, along with some study materials. You may take these practice exams as many times as you like to help you prepare and understand what you will be asked during the exam. Timeline. The interview is typically conducted approximately 14 months after you submitted your application. The exam is usually held at the same time, but you will be given another appointment day and time if the official is not able to administer the exam during the interview.

Step Four: Application Decision

If you successfully complete the interview and exam and you provided the correct documents, your application may be approved the same day. You will receive a Notice of Examination Results (Form N-652) in the mail not long after your exam date. This letter will inform you that your application has been approved and details of when and where your Oath of Citizenship will take place. If the letter states your application is continued for not passing the exam, you will be required to retake the exam. If your application is continued for inadequate paperwork, you will receive an additional letter containing Form N-14 with details on what is needed and how to submit it. It is essential that you submit the requested materials no later than 30 days, or your application will be denied. Timeline. You will receive your decision letter from USCIS no later than 120 days, or four months, from your interview and exam.

Step Five: Oath of Allegiance and Certificate of Naturalization

The final step to becoming a United States citizen is to recite the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and to receive your citizenship certificate. You must participate in the ceremony before citizenship is granted, even if you have passed everything to this point, so it is vital to attend. If this step is not conducted at the time of the interview, you will receive a Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony (Form N-445) from USCIS with the date, time, and location of the ceremony. Following the oath, you will receive your Certificate of Naturalization, and also register to vote in some situations. Timeline. Frequently the Oath of Allegiance ceremony takes place at the same time as the interview and exam if your application has been approved beforehand. If not, expect USCIS to schedule the oath ceremony about two to six weeks following the interview.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC Assist Clients Seeking United States Citizenship.

Becoming a United States citizen is a long but rewarding process, and the seasoned Philadelphia immigration lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC are available to help you gather and prepare your application for naturalization. Call us at 215-496-0690 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.
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