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What are the Steps toward U.S. Citizenship?

Steps toward U.S. Citizenship

To understand the steps you need to take to achieve citizenship, it helps to first know what the terms U.S. citizen and naturalization mean. U.S. citizenship is a status that entails people certain rights, benefits, and duties. These include being legally allowed to vote, serve on juries, bring family members to the United States, apply for federal jobs, obtain government benefits, be eligible for federal scholarships and grants, and keep a residency in the United States. You can become a U.S citizen in a few ways: by being born here, or through the process of naturalization by you or your parent.

Who is Eligible to Become a U.S. Citizen?

Naturalization is the process in which U.S. citizenship gets granted to lawful permanent residents who meet certain requirements that Congress established in the Immigration and Nationality Act. There are a list of steps to complete along the way, and the first one is to determine whether you are already a U.S. citizen by birth; children can acquire U.S. citizenship from their parents automatically when they are born. The next step is to visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website and look at their naturalization eligibility worksheet to see if you are eligible to apply.

To be eligible, you must meet certain requirements, such as being 18 or older, the child of a U.S. citizen, the spouse of a U.S. citizen for three or more years, have served in the U.S. military, or have had a valid green card for a minimum of five years. USCIS will also consider your moral character, your residency history, and your knowledge of English and U.S. civics as you make your way through the process.

If you do not have a green card, you may be able to apply for one through a family member who is a U.S. citizen, through your employer, or in other circumstances such as being a refugee seeking asylum, an abuse victim, or a religious worker. Should you qualify, there are forms to complete for the application. This can be a long process for some individuals and take up to three years or more.

How Do I Apply for U.S. Citizenship?

If you are eligible to apply for citizenship, you can download and complete the Application for Naturalization (N-400), which can take a while because it is very long and detailed; you need to complete answers about your parents, education, employment history, past residences, marital history, children, and other personal information. There are comprehensive instructions for every section, so it is a good idea to print these out and use them as a reference. Work your way through the questions, being sure to follow the instructions carefully.

If you are unsure about an answer, find the right information and complete the question. Otherwise, enter the word Unknown or explain why you are unable to provide an answer. Do not take any guesses, and do not be dishonest to save time or improve your chances. If you lie on your N-400 or any other immigration forms, you can be removed from the country, denied citizenship, or encounter other problems.

What Should I Do Next?

After the form is completed, you will need to send it to the USCIS, along with two passport-style photographs, a copy of both sides of your green card, and the $725 fee for most applicants, which can be paid with a check or money order; to pay by credit card, you have to complete the G-1450 form. The USCIS may require you to provide additional documentation as well. Before mailing everything out, ask a trusted friend or relative to look everything over for you. For added assurance, you can work with a qualified immigration lawyer who can review everything with a practiced, objective eye.

After the USCIS receives your application, they will reach out to set up an appointment to take your fingerprints for a criminal background check. This is called a biometrics appointment; be sure to bring your green card, a photo ID, and the letter they sent with you on the arranged date. The next step is your citizenship interview, where you will be asked about your application information in more detail and tested on your English skills and how familiar you are with U.S. civics.

The tests include reading and writing portions that you can answer with single sentences, and you will also have to respond to some questions verbally. All the questions pertain to U.S. government and history, and you will have time to study before taking the test; information is also available on the USCIS website. You only need to answer six out of the 10 questions correctly when you take the test. After you complete it, the waiting game begins; it can take up to eight months or so to hear back.

What Happens after I Pass My Test?

If you are nervous about passing the test, some sources have stated that the pass rate is 91 percent. The test itself has changed over the years, but investing some time to study can definitely improve one’s chances of passing. Applicants who pass the interview and naturalization test may be approved for U.S. citizenship. When this happens, they are scheduled to take the Oath of Allegiance. This can be done alone or with other applicants who have passed. You will then be given a Certificate of Naturalization to prove that you are now a U.S. citizen.

The naturalization process does not take as long as the one involved for obtaining a green card. As of last year, the average processing time for Form N-400 was eight months, and the total average time for the naturalization process was 15 months.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC Support Green Card Holders Hoping to Become U.S. Citizens

The path toward receiving a green card and a naturalization certificate can have a lot of bumps along the way, but you and your family are entitled to certain rights. If you need legal guidance with any of these matters, do not hesitate to contact the caring, experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC. We understand the meticulous attention to detail that these cases require, and we will guide you in the process. 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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