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Guide On The United States’ Naturalization Process

A Simple Guide Through The United States’ Naturalization Process

For numerous immigrants, achieving citizenship in the United States is their ultimate aspiration. This is because it provides them with stability, complete involvement in community life, and a deep sense of belonging. Becoming a US citizen, also known as naturalization, grants various benefits and rights.

These rights include the right to vote, access to public benefits, and the opportunity to serve in public office. Nonetheless, the journey to citizenship can be intricate. It requires specific criteria, paperwork, and tests. In other words, the naturalization process enables individuals from other countries to attain US citizenship.

You can become a US citizen by filing form N-400 if you meet all the criteria. After filing, you are required to attend a biometrics appointment, during which your fingerprints and photograph will be captured. Additionally, you will undergo an interview with USCIS. During this interview, USCIS will verify that you have satisfied all the criteria for US citizenship.

Upon successful approval, you will participate in a naturalization ceremony. This is where you will officially be recognized as a US citizen. As a US citizen, you are entitled to numerous rights and duties, necessitating several prerequisites for naturalization. These prerequisites will be elaborated on in greater detail below.

Who is eligible?

To begin your journey towards becoming a US citizen, the first step is to check if you meet the basic requirements for naturalization. These fundamental criteria are:

  • How old are you?

You need to be at least 18 years old when you submit your application for naturalization. Nonetheless, this rule doesn’t cover children of green card holders. This is because they will be granted US citizenship automatically. This is if their parents successfully go through the naturalization process.

  • What is your immigration status?

You should have a green card and have been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years. However, there are certain situations where these rules don’t apply:

If your time in the US began as a conditional resident and you eventually removed the condition, those 2 years of conditional residency will be counted towards the 5-year requirement. So, in this case, spending 2 years as a conditional resident and another 3 as a permanent resident would meet this requirement.

Secondly, if your residency status was gained through marriage to a US Citizen or under the VAWA program, you are only required to wait 3 years before you can apply for naturalization. This timeline starts once you are officially married to your US citizen spouse. It continues until you are legally recognized as a US citizen.

Moreover, for those who have a green card from marriage and have experienced domestic abuse, there is a provision allowing for US citizenship application after 3 years. This provision exists to prevent individuals from staying in abusive marriages to accelerate the process of naturalization.

  • How long have you continuously stayed in the US?

You must live in the US continuously for the required number of years without any long breaks disrupting your stay.

  • You must have a good moral standing.

Prove that you have a good moral character. This will be achieved by examining your records, citizenship application, and interview. Lack of moral integrity includes discovering guilt in a criminal case or crimes committed overseas. Any time a person participates in a training or rehabilitation program instead of facing criminal charges does not count.

This includes when a person was tried as a minor without receiving a penalty. Also, situations where there was a mistake in the decision or when the applicant was convicted for political reasons will not count.

However, if a person under 18 is tried and sentenced as an adult or if a court martial finds you guilty, it will negatively affect your evaluation for good moral character. Additionally, the conviction will still be considered if your case has been struck out. While on probation, showing that you have a good moral character can be difficult.

However, if you show significant changes for the better in how you behave after finishing your probation, you might be seen as having a good moral character. Things that could be looked at when judging someone’s moral character might include your family connections, previous criminal records, education, and work history.

Other factors that could be considered are tax documents, participation in the local community, and the length of time you have lived in the United States.

  • English language skills.

You need to be able to read, write, and speak English well. This will undergo a review through a test carried out by USCIS. You will receive two chances to pass this test. Certain applicants of a specific age who have spent significant time in the United States as a permanent resident will not be required to take this test.

If you are: (1) 50 years or older and have lived in the US as a permanent resident for at least 20 years, or (2) 55 years or older and have lived in the US as a permanent resident for at least 15 years, you will not need to take the language test. Moreover, if you meet the criteria for a medical exemption (cognitive disability), you may be exempted from this language test.

  • Civic knowledge.

Another prerequisite for becoming a US citizen is foundational knowledge of American government and history. This will be assessed with a civics exam, which each applicant will have a shot at passing on their first attempt.

  • Do you respect the US Constitution?

A key element in becoming a naturalized citizen is showing a deep respect for the core values and beliefs of the US Constitution. This means being ready to accept and follow the Oath of Allegiance, remaining loyal to the United States, the Constitution, and all its laws, and fulfilling all the duties of a citizen.

How the process works

Getting to grips with the different stages of the naturalization process can aid in better planning. It will also help you have realistic hopes. Here is what the process usually looks like:

  • Filing form N-400.

Fill out and send in form N-400. This is the naturalization application form. You must submit it together with the necessary documents and payment to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

  • Biometrics capturing.

You will need to show up for a biometric appointment. This is where your fingerprints, photograph, and signature are taken for background screenings and to verify your identity.

  • Interview and tests.

Next, you need to prepare for and attend your citizenship interview. At this interview, a USCIS officer will examine your application and assess your English fluency and understanding of US history and government.

  • Oath-taking ceremony.

Should your naturalization request be granted, you will need to participate in an oath-taking ceremony. This is where you take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, which signifies the culmination of the process to become a US citizen.

The challenges with citizenship application

The route to becoming a US citizen is complex. This is because it is filled with common challenges that newcomers face.

  • Learning a new language is a significant barrier, especially since millions seek to become US citizens. Being able to communicate effectively is crucial for joining a new community.
  • The cost of applying for citizenship can be high. This includes application fees, medical tests, and other related expenses.
  • Another challenge is dealing with complicated paperwork. Immigrants must understand legal terms and ensure their documents are precise to avoid delays or denials.
  • The waiting time for applications can cause stress, making people uncertain about their future.
  • Adapting to a new cultural setting can also be a very emotional process. People might feel pressured to blend in while maintaining their cultural identity.
  • Moreover, insufficient information can make things difficult, with some immigrants struggling to find the necessary details.

In conclusion, the path to US citizenship is complex. Those pursuing it need to be prepared to overcome these obstacles.

Overcoming some common challenges

Different obstacles may come up as you go through the naturalization process, and applicants need to be ready to tackle them:

  • Incorrect or missing information: Ensure the information you include in your application is thorough, precise, and consistent with your prior immigration history. Any inconsistencies could cause your application to be delayed or even rejected.
  • Long absence from the US: Long absence from the US might interfere with meeting the residency requirement. Talk to a seasoned immigration lawyer about your situation. They will figure out how to fulfill the eligibility standards.
  • Preparing for the language and civic tests: Thoroughly get ready for the language and civic tests of the naturalization exam. You can use materials like the USCIS study guides, online courses, and local community groups.
  • Past criminal offenses or immigration rule violations: Include any criminal offenses or immigration rule violations in your application. Also, you should show how you have rehabilitated or detail the reasons behind the incident. Get legal help from an experienced immigration lawyer to effectively argue your case to USCIS.

Benefits of the US citizenship

  • Becoming a US citizen will help you avoid the risk of removal from the country. Holding US citizenship shields you and your kids from being sent back to your home country.
  • Passing on citizenship rights. You have the right to pass on the privilege of being a US citizen to your offspring.
  • Bringing the family together. You can bring in other relatives to join your family in the US.
  • You can get public sector employment. Certain positions within the police, military, and federal government necessitate US citizenship.
  • Being a US citizen gives you the right to travel as you like. The US passport is recognized internationally.
  • With the American citizenship card, you can participate in elections. You can elect your representatives in Congress and other local bodies.

Get help!

Though complex, the path to US citizenship offers chances for development and change. By thoroughly understanding the requirements of the naturalization process and seeking the advice of an experienced immigration lawyer, you can confidently move forward in your journey to becoming a US citizen.

At Gehi and Associates, our dedicated team of legal professionals is committed to simplifying the naturalization process for you. We will offer you top-notch support, guidance, and representation throughout your path to US citizenship. Trust in our expertise, and let us passionately assist you in pursuing US citizenship.

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