Applying For U.S. Citizenship - It's Easier Than You Think
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The hard part of the American immigration process is simply getting an immigrant visa that will get you in the country. Once you have obtained permanent resident status (green card) applying for and becoming a U.S. citizen is a pretty straight forward and reasonable process. Once you've been in the country and have established yourself, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service goes out of their way to provide you with the resources you need to become a citizen should you desire to do so. Becoming a U.S. citizen is a deeply personal decision and not one that should be rushed into. Before applying take a moment to think how citizenship will affect your long term goals and objectives. How will becoming a U.S. citizen affect your family and your ties with your country of origin? Can you honestly swear allegiance to the United States and give up the citizenship of your old country if required?
Applying for Citizenship - Qualifications and Process
If after those considerations you want to go forward with applying for citizenship then these are the qualifications and process.
- To qualify you have to have permanent resident status and have resided in the U.S. for five years (3 years in some cases). You must have always maintained a legal immigration status (no lapse in green card). You have to be of good moral character which generally means no felony convictions and no convictions of certain misdemeanors. You have to be willing to support the democratic form of government and swear to protect the U.S. Constitution.
- Assuming you meet the qualifications you can download Form N-400 from the USCIS website. Read the instructions carefully and submit the form along with the application fee to the address in the instructions (N-400 is currently not available for electronic submission). If your application is approved you will be notified of a citizenship interview. This normally takes 90 days.
- The interview is actually a test. The interviewer will ask you questions about your application, what you do in the U.S. and other subjects. This interview is not just to get information but to evaluate your skill with spoken English.
- A written test will be administered. You will be asked to read three sentences in English and write three sentences in English. You will also be given a 10. question test on U.S. civics and you have to score 6 out of 10 to pass. If you fail the first time you will be given an opportunity to take the test over again
- If you pass the test you will be sworn in as a U.S citizen at a citizenship ceremony where you will also be given your certificate of naturalization.