naturalization process

US Citizenship: Steps For Naturalization Process

First, I just want to say happy 4th of July to everyone! US history hasn’t always been pleasant, but it is still a great country that offers new immigrants many opportunities for success. It’s also nice to have the day off to spend with your family and turn up that barbecue, right? Today’s topic will be about the naturalization process and what you need to do to pass your civics test.

So, I have been thinking about the naturalization process and how to make it easier for you to understand. Having simple steps is my favorite way to put together dense information. I will be segmenting the naturalization process into 3 distinct phases and then going into more details about each one.

The naturalization process is the final step for most immigrants. But before you can begin to gather all the documents, there are eligibility requirements that need to be met. So, how do you know whether you qualify to apply for naturalization? The great news is that the USCIS makes it very clear who is eligible.

Step 1: Eligibility Requirements for Naturalization

Before you quickly send your naturalization packet to the USCIS, make sure that you are actually eligible. Once you know that you are eligible, you can send in your file as soon as your filing window opens.

The filing window is 90 days before your 3 year anniversary of your green card.

Who qualifies to file for naturalization?

  • Must be at least 18 years old.
  • Must have been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence.
  • Been lawfully admitted as permanent residents will be asked to produce an I-551, Alien Registration Receipt Card, as proof of their status.
  • Resided continuously as a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. for at least 5 years prior to filing with no single absence from the United States of more than one year;
  • Been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the previous five years (absences of more than six months but less than one year shall disrupt the applicant’s continuity of residence unless the applicant can establish that he or she did not abandon his or her residence during such period) and
  • Resided within a state or district for at least three months.
  • Must show that he or she has been a person of good moral character for the statutory period (typically five years or three years if married to a U.S. citizen or one year for Armed Forces expedite) prior to filing for naturalization.

The term “good moral character” sounds pretty vague but it basically means that you didn’t commit a horrible crime such as murder, rape, burglary etc.

Step 2: Documents Needed for Naturalization

Now that you know you are eligible to file for naturalization, the next step is gathering the documents. The most important form that you need to fill out correctly is the N-400 application for naturalization [download here]. You will be familiar with compiling all the documents because it is similar to the removal of conditions process.

Start gathering the supporting evidence that you will include with your naturalization application. This can include various documents that show that you have been maintained your US residence, have good moral character and plan on becoming a US citizen. The United States is happy to welcome good tax paying immigrants who want to be apart of American culture. There are millions of people around the world who can only dream about this opportunity.

I know I will get a few emails from people pointing out the shortcomings of the US, specifically the political system, but you make the best of it. If you do not wish to participate in the US elections, you don’t have to. But it is still a good idea to apply for US citizenship regardless of whether you plan to vote or not.

Supporting Documents for Naturalization

If you are still married to the original US citizen petitioner:

  • Evidence that your spouse has been a U.S. citizen for the last three years:
  • Birth certificate (if your spouse never lost citizenship since birth), or
  • Naturalization certificate, or
  • Certificate of Citizenship, or
  • The inside of the front cover and signature page of your spouse’s current U.S. passport, or
  • Form FS-240, ‘Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America’, and
  • Your current marriage certificate; and
  • Proof of termination of all prior marriages of your spouse-divorce decree(s), annulment(s), or death certificate(s); and
  • Documents referring to you and your spouse:
    • Tax returns, bank accounts, leases, mortgages, or birth certificates of children, or
    • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-certified copies of the income tax forms that you both filed for the past three years, or
    • An IRS tax return transcript for the last three years.

If you are filing alone (in the case of divorce or separation), you will not need to supply proof of citizenship for your ex-spouse.

Step 3: Passing The Civics Test

Ah, the civics test. I don’t know about you, but I hate taking tests even if I study for them. Something about being scored kind of scares me and I get very nervous about it. Since you can’t avoid taking the civics test, let’s prepare you as much as possible so that you pass it with flying colors (of red and blue). The civics test is not to force you to know every details about US history but a way to make sure that you have the basic knowledge needed to be a citizen.

There are about 100 questions that could possible be asked by the immigration officer. Don’t panic though because out of these 100 questions, you will only be asked about 10 randomly. The great news is that you don’t have to be perfect and the USCIS allows you to pass with a 60% grade. That means that out of the 10 questions you will be asked, you only need to answer 6 correctly.

I have provided links of the 100 questions for the civics test. Print them out and learn (not memorize) as much as you can. That is why I always recommend to prepare for the civics test well in advance of taking it.

Step 4: The Oath Ceremony

Finally, the last step of the naturalization process is the oath ceremony. This is probably the easiest part that many of us look forward to. You finally become a US citizen and take the oath of allegiance to the United States. Although you will be required to renounce all other countries that you are a citizen of, it really means nothing in many other countries.

The US is one of only a handful of countries that does not officially recognize dual citizenship but as long as your home country does, you are in the clear. For example, Canada recognizes dual citizenship so even after I denounced my citizenship rights there I still remain a Canadian citizen. So if you are worried about loosing any other citizenship, do some research to find out if your home country recognizes dual citizenship before the oath ceremony.

After the oath ceremony, you will receive your certificate of naturalization which is proof of your US citizenship. Keep this document is a very safe place. You now will have all the rights of all other US citizens and can get first priority to apply for a visa for your relatives back home (if you want).

Now, it’s time to celebrate, take some photos and enjoy this moment!

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