approved for us citizenship

How Long Does It Take To Get Approved For US Citizenship

Becoming a U.S. citizen is the ultimate destination for more permanent residents.  It gives you more privileges in this country and protects you from deportation due to criminal convictions. So, in this post, we’ll learn how long it takes to get approved for US citizenship.

Generally, applying for naturalization is on a first come first serve basis. This means that the sooner you submit your application the sooner you will get your approval.

Case Example:

Sophia entered the country on a spouse visa 4 years ago. Although she qualified to for naturalization after being a permanent resident for 3 years, she didn’t have the money for the application fee at the time. She is still married to the U.S. citizen that petitioned for her spouse visa which allows her to apply before the 5 year mark of her green card.

Sophia submits form N-400 along with supporting evidence of her marriage and residence in the U.S. Now she wants to know how long it will take for her to be scheduled for her civics test and oath ceremony.

Do You Qualify For US Citizenship?

There are certain minimum requirements you must meet before you qualify to naturalize to become a U.S. citizen. Everyone needs to meet these requirements or must wait to apply until they do.

Time As A Permanent Resident

How long you’ve had your green card will determine when you can petition to be come a U.S. citizen. Take a look at the issue date on your green card to know when this time clock begins.

If you’ve been in the U.S. without status for a longer period of time, it won’t count.

The time starts when you are issued a green card by USCIS. For those of you who are still married to your original petitioner, you’ll only need to wait 3 years to naturalize.

If you’ve divorced before 3 years, then you’ll need to wait the full 5 years like everyone else.

Continuous Residence In The U.S.

Continuous residence means that you have not left the United States for a long period of time. If you’ve been out of the country too long, you’ll disrupt your continuous residency.

For example, if you left the U.S. for more than 6 months but less than 12 months there a good probability that you have broken the continuous residency unless you can prove otherwise.

Case Example:

Eddie entered the U.S. in 2004, he returned to France to visit family for 1 year and 3 months. He got a re-entry permit before leaving the U.S. so that he would keep his permanent residence status.

He then enter the U.S. on 2006. When is he eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship?

In the case above, Eddie would be eligible to naturalize in 4 years and 1 day. The last 364 days that he was out of the country would not count towards his continuous residency requirement.

Physical Presence In The U.S.

The physical presence requirement is similar to the continuous residency but not exactly. It means that you must be physically present in the United States for several months before applying for naturalization.

  • Effect of removal proceedings:
    • If you have been ordered removed from the United States, you are no longer eligible for naturalization. Also, if your naturalization application is still pending when the removal proceedings are in effect, it won’t be approved. This restriction may not apply to those who are naturalizing based on their service in the armed forces.

Good Moral Character

To be eligible for naturalization and get approved for U.S. citizenship, you must be a person of good moral character. Even if you believe you are a good person, USCIS will make that determination based on the following:

  • Any crime against a person with intent to harm.
  • Any crime against property or the Government that involves “fraud” or evil intent.
  • Two or more crimes for which the aggregate sentence was 5 years or more.
  • Violating any controlled substance law of the United States, any State, or any foreign country.
  • Habitual drunkenness.
  • Illegal gambling.
  • Prostitution.
  • Polygamy (marriage to more than one person at the same time).
  • Lying to gain immigration benefits.
  • Failing to pay court-ordered child support or alimony payments.
  • Confinement in jail, prison, or similar institution for which the total
  • confinement was 180 days or more during the past 5 years (or 3 years if
  • you are applying based on your marriage to a United States citizen).
  • Failing to complete any probation, parole, or suspended sentence before you apply for naturalization.
  • Terrorist acts.
  • Persecution of anyone because of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group.

Naturalization Process: Submitting Form N-400

The naturalization process can be complicated if you are unsure of what you are doing. It’s best to understand what is required of you before submitting form N-400. Otherwise, you will waste time and money only to be denied.

  • Determine if you are already a U.S. citizen.
    • Before applying for naturalization, you should first find out if you are already a U.S. citizen or have other claims to it. This can mean either one of your parents is a U.S. citizen that you didn’t know of or they naturalized while you were a child. If none of these apply to  you, you can move on to the next step.
  • Determine your eligibility to become a U.S. citizen.
    • In general, you are eligible to naturalize if you are 18 years old and have been a permanent resident for 5 years (3 years if you’re married to a U.S. citizen) and meet all other requirements.
  • Prepare Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
    • This is the part that takes the most time. You’ll need to  gather all the documents and evidence you’ll be submitting to USCIS. Be sure to include as many of the required documents as possible. If you are applying in 3 years because you are married to a U.S. citizen, be sure to show proof of your current marriage.
  • Submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
    • Finally, it’s time to send in your completed and signed form N-400, evidence and the application fee to USCIS. If you are low-income, you have the option to apply for the fee waiver.
  • Go to the biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment, if applicable.
    • Within a few months of sending in your N-400 application you will be required to attend the biometrics appointment. This is where you will be fingerprinted and photographed for the purpose of the FBI background check. All applicants must complete the background check before the interview is scheduled.
  • Complete the interview.
    • Once your case is processed and the background check is completed, you will be scheduled for the interview. You must show up at your appointment with the appointment letter in hand. You must also notify USCIS if you changed your address within 10 days after submitting the application.
  • Receive a decision from USCIS.

    • After your interview is complete, you will get a letter with the decision from USCIS.
      • GRANTED – If you are approved, you will be scheduled for the oath of allegiance ceremony.
      • CONTINUED – If a decision can’t be made, then your case may continue and immigration officials may ask you to submit additional documents. You may also be asked to return for a second interview within 60-90 days.
      • DENIED – Your N-400 application has been denied for lack of evidence or qualification. The denial notice you receive will have instructions on how to appeal this decision. You must respond by filing form N-336 with the correct fee within 30 days of the N-400 denial.
  • Receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance.
    • You may be able to take the oath of allegiance on the same day as your interview. If this option isn’t available, USCIS will send you a letter letting you know when and where your oath ceremony will take place.
  • Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
    • You can’t become a U.S. citizen unless you take the oath of allegiance. When you show up for the oath ceremony, there are a few things that take place:
      • Complete the questionnaire Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony
      • Report for your oath ceremony.
      • Check-in with USCIS.
      • A USCIS officer will review your responses to Form N-445
      • Turn in your Permanent Resident Card.
      • Take the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen.
      • Receive your Certificate of Naturalization and review it before leaving the ceremony site.
      • Notify USCIS of any corrections to your certificate at that time.
  • Understand your rights and responsibilities as a U.S. citizen.
    • Now that you are a U.S. citizen, there are a few rights and responsibilities that you should be aware of:
    • Rights
      • Freedom to express yourself.
      • Freedom to worship as you wish.
      • Right to a prompt, fair trial by jury.Right to vote in elections for public officials.
      • Right to apply for federal employment requiring
      • U.S. citizenship.
      • Right to run for elected office.
      • Freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
    • Responsibilities
      • Support and defend the U.S. Constitution.
      • Stay informed of the issues affecting your community.
      • Participate in the democratic process.
      • Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.
      • Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.
      • Participate in your local community.
      • Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities.
      • Serve on a jury when called upon.
      • Defend the country if the need should arise

How Long To Get Approved For US Citizenship

From start to finish the naturalization process can take 10 months to well over a year to complete. The good news is that it won’t disrupt your life since you are a permanent resident and can work, travel and wait in the U.S. without problems.

The wait times are increasing because the number of green card holder that are applying for U.S. citizenship has increased since Trump came into office.

Some think that all the deportations and DACA issues have heightened fears among lawful permanent resident and prompted them to look into naturalization.

Many green card holder who didn’t want to be come U.S. citizen due to the time it takes and the cost have now chosen to apply which has increased the wait times for all applicants.

Final Thoughts On US Citizenship Timeline

As you can see, the naturalization process is completed and long. But, it’s the final step in the immigration process to get approved for U.S. citizenship. Then, you will never have to deal with USCIS again.

If this isn’t motivation enough to apply for U.S. citizenship, I don’t know what is.

There are many restrictions and requirements but if you qualify you shouldn’t hesitate to submit form N-400. Remember, if you can’t afford the application fee because you have low income, you can always apply for a waiver of the fee.

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