When you legally enter the United States to study, work or visit, there is an end date to your legal time in the country. Eventually, you will have to either apply for an extension of your visa or return to your country of origin.
For some people who want to stay in the United States, seeking naturalization is a way to go from a temporary resident in the United States to a lawful citizen, with all the rights that come with that status. Citizenship allows people to vote, to run for office and to sponsor loved ones who also want to move to the United States.
What are the steps involved in the naturalization process for immigrants in the United States?
Determine if you qualify for citizenship
Naturalization involves submitting an application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In order to have them approve your application, you must be at least 18 years of age. Additionally, you will typically need to have been a lawful permanent residence for at least three years if not five years.
During that time, you would have need to be in the United States without traveling and avoid most criminal convictions. If you believe that you meet all of these criteria, you can submit the form N-400 to begin your naturalization process.
What happens after you apply?
The USCIS will have to carefully review your application and background. Thorough criminal checks here and abroad will likely occur. In some cases, they may require you to go to a medical facility for biometric screening and registration. The USCIS may also require an interview as part of your naturalization process.
You will also have to take and pass tests on subjects including the English language and United States civics or government. These tests have both written and oral components. Applicants have the right to prepare for the tests fully, and there are plenty of study guides and classes available to help those facing these tests. Some individuals with specific disabilities may qualify for an exemption regarding testing.
Once you have completed the application, finished your interviews and passed your test, you will receive notice from the USCIS about the status of your application. If approved, you will soon be a naturalized citizen!