Citizenship Through Naturalization

What is Naturalization? Naturalization is the word the U.S. government uses for “getting American citizenship.” It includes the whole process, detailed below, including the application, interview, test, and oath of citizenship, or “swearing in.”

How do I qualify for Naturalization? Most people must first have a green card (you must be a lawful permanent resident). If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you may file after waiting only 3 years. Other lawful permanent residents must wait 5 years. You must also have been residing in the U.S. (and show you’ve been physically present for at least half of the time you’ve had residency and that you haven’t left the country for more than 6 months at a time) and be over 18 years of age. You will need to demonstrate that you have good morals, know about U.S. history and government, and be able to read, write, and speak basic English. If you’ve been in the military for at least 1 year, you can apply while you are in the military or within 6 months of honorable discharge.

My parents are U.S. citizens – can I apply for Naturalization? Possibly. However, if your parents or adoptive parents became U.S. citizens before you turned 18, you may already be a U.S. citizen! You will still need to fill out a form to get a certificate proving this, but you will not need to go through the entire Naturalization process.

How do I apply for Naturalization? You must fill out form N-400 and be prepared to demonstrate that you fulfill all the requirements, including the physical presence requirement.

How much does it cost to Naturalize? Form N-400 costs $595 plus $85 for biometrics, for a total of $680.

Do I have to be in the U.S. to Naturalize? Yes, you must be physically present to undergo your naturalization interview, test, and oath. If you will be out of the country when your appointment or oath is scheduled, please immediately notify U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) so they can reschedule you. Do not count on being rescheduled more than once.

How long does Naturalization take? The naturalization process is very fast for most people. You can apply up to 3 months before you actually qualify for naturalization. If you do this, you will usually get your appointment during the first month you qualify for naturalization and you may be able to take your oath in the same month! Therefore, the whole naturalization process usually takes no more than 3-4 months.

Is there a Naturalization Interview? Yes, there is always a naturalization interview. It is broken down into two parts. Usually, the officer will go through your application with you orally and ask you questions about it, sometimes to determine if you demonstrate good moral character. Then, the officer will administer the Naturalization Test.

What is the Naturalization Test? When you go in for your interview, your USCIS officer will test whether you can speak, read, and write in English. He/she will also question your knowledge of politics, government, and civics. You will be given a sentence in English and be asked to read it out loud. Then, you will be told a simple sentence and asked to write it (be sure to practice your spelling, capitalization, and punctuation). Finally, you will be orally asked 10 questions. You must answer 6 of them correctly.

I did well in my Naturalization Interview, but I failed my Naturalization Test. What do I do now? If you did well in your interview, but missed some questions or otherwise were not able to pass the test, you will get a second chance. You only get two chances, though, so if you don’t pass the first time, study very hard for your second test! USCIS will send you a letter telling you the next day to come in and be retested. Usually this will be 60 to 90 days after your first test, so you have plenty of time to study.

I passed my Naturalization Interview and Test – What happens next? If you passed everything, either your officer will give you a letter with the date of your swearing in ceremony before you leave, or you will receive one in the mail. Many officers are friendly and if you ask them nicely, may give you this letter before you leave their office so you don’t have to wait for it to arrive in the mail.