Ways To Become a U.S. Citizen
There are many reasons why green card holders may consider becoming a US citizen. However, the process can be quite technical and it’s important to know the right path to take. There are four major ways green card holders can become US citizens. They include lawful permanent resident, marriage to a US citizen, service in the US military, and by being the biological children of a US citizen.
This article discusses all these four ways in detail, including different government forms that could be helpful in the process. However, regardless of the path you choose, you will still have to follow the following steps to apply for naturalization.
Important Steps To Naturalization
Before choosing the appropriate pathway to citizenship for a green card holder, it is important to understand the process of naturalization as all pathways follow the same process as described below.
Read: How To Get A Green Card.
Step #1 – Determining Your Eligibility For Citizenship Through Naturalization
If you are already a United States citizen by birth, and for some reason you did not receive citizenship automatically at birth, you will need to pursue naturalization. Secondly, you will need to determine your eligibility for citizenship before proceeding with the naturalization process. The best way to determine your eligibility is through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services – USCIS -website by filling out the naturalization eligibility worksheet, also known as form M-480, which is available on their website.
Step #2 – Filling Out The Application For U.S Citizenship
Once you have determined your eligibility, you will need to file form N-400, also located on the USCIS website. You will need to create a account to obtain the form and be able to track its progress. Make sure you read the instructions sheet, and utilize the documents checklist, also known as form M-477, to ensure you have collected all the appropriate information and documents to expedite your application.
Read more: Proof Of U.S. Citizenship
Step #3 – Submitting Your Application
At this point, you will be required to file your application along with all relevant documents and fees, which can be done online.
Filing for Citizenship Online
To file online, click on the File Online button on the N-400 page, and then create an online account if you haven’t already. Once the account has been created, follow the provided steps to complete and submit your application.
US Citizenship Application Fee
The filing fee for U.S. citizenship application varies depending on different factors. Given that the fee is never constant, it is advisable to find out directly from USCIS. To check the latest filing fees, head over to the USCIS website, locate the Application for Naturalization page, and then click on the Filing Fee accordion. As of Jan 2021, the filing fee is $725.
The government agency in charge of citizenship and immigration will then send you a receipt once your application has been received, and you will be able to track your case status through the account you created on their website.
Step #3 – Biometrics Appointment And Interview
Before the USCIS begins processing your application to become a citizen, you may be required to have your biometrics taken in order to verify your identity and criminal history, if any.
You will be notified if this step applies to you, with a date, time and location for your biometrics appointment. You will also need to complete an interview; again, the USCIS office will notify you with a date, time and USCIS location to conduct your interview. You must also bring your notice to your interview.
Step #3 – The Decision
After the interview, you will receive a response, which involves three decisions: granted, continued, or denied. Here’s what each one of these decisions mean.
If your application for citizenship through naturalization is approved, it means you passed the interview, and you can proceed with your path to naturalization.
If your application is to be continued, this means further evidence or documentation is required to complete the process of your application. Another reason for a continued N-400 application is a failed English or civics test.
If your application to become a citizen has been denied, it is because the USCIS has determined that you are not eligible for citizenship at that particular time, and that you may need to reevaluate your pathway to citizenship.
If your application was approved, you will be notified about when to take the oath of allegiance, including the venue and time. Once you have secured a date for your naturalization ceremony, you will need to prepare in advance.
Preparing For Naturalization Ceremony
You will need to complete form N-445, which is the Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, and report to your ceremony on time. At the ceremony, you will turn in your green card, take the oath, and receive your citizenship certificate.
Understanding The Rights of a U.S. Citizen
Lastly, it is important to understand what your U.S. citizenship means, its rights, privileges and responsibilities alike. This government organization even includes a rights and responsibilities page on their site for review.
In summary, a U.S. Citizenship gives you the right to live in the United States, vote in federal elections, support the U.S. Constitution, work in the United States, run for federal office and apply for a U.S. passport. As a citizen, you may sponsor your family members to immigrate to the U.S., serve on a jury, and participate in community projects.
Four Ways To Become a Citizen of The United States
As stated earlier, there are four main pathways to become a U.S. citizen. However, the exact requirements vary from one situation to another. They include:
Citizenship Through Lawful Permeate Residency (LPR)
To be eligible for citizenship through LPR, you must meet the following requirements:
- Have been a permanent resident of at least five years consecutively prior to filling form N-400
- Be at least 18 years old or older when filling form N-400
- Demonstrate you have had a physical presence in the U.S. at least 30 months out of your minimum of 5 years permanent residency
- Have lived at least 3 months in the state or district that has authority over your area of residence
- Demonstrate that you are a person of good moral character
- Have an appreciation and understanding of the U.S. Constitution
- Can read, write, and speak in the English Language
- Pass a civics test, covering U S government history, including the fundamentals and forms of the U.S. government
- Be able to take an oath of allegiance
Citizenship Through Marriage
As a green card holder, to be eligible for citizenship through marriage, the following requirements must be met.
- Must be at least 18 years old when filing your N-400 form
- Must have been a lawful resident of the United States for at least 3 consecutive years prior to filing your N-400 application
- Have been living with your citizen spouse for the three consecutive years prior to filling and during the verification of your application
- Have lived in the state or district that has authority over your residence for at least three months
- Have lived in the U.S. for three consecutive years immediately prior to your application filing date
- Be a continuous permanent resident of the U.S. from the date you file until your naturalization
- Have been physically present in the U.S. 18 months out of the three years immediately prior to the date you filed your application for naturalization
- Able to read, write, and speak in the English language
- Have a basic understanding of, and be able to pass a U.S. civics test
- Be a person of good moral character within the three immediate years prior to your application date until you take your oath of allegiance
- Have an understanding of the U.S. government, Constitution, and its values
- Have and possibly be required to prove the legitimacy of your marriage
Read more: How To Get A Marriage-Based Green Card
Citizenship Through Service in The United States Military
Immigrants who serve in the United States armed forces are also eligible for citizenship under the Immigration and Nationality Act, if the following conditions are met:
- Have served in the armed forces in a time of hostility or at least one year in a time of peace
- Able to read, write, and speak in the English Language
- Able to pass a test on United States Civics
- Meet the appropriate residency and physical presence requirements, which may depend on or be waived if serving in the military outside the United States
- Are a lawful resident at time of the naturalization interview
- Have an understanding and appreciation of the U.S. constitution and its principles
- Have demonstrated moral character for at least five years immediately before your filing date
- File form N-426, also known as Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service, along with your N-400.
Citizenship Through Birth
If you are the biological child of a U.S. citizen and did not receive citizenship automatically at the time of birth, you are most likely eligible for citizenship if you also meet the following requirements:
If the child of a U.S. citizen who is claiming citizenship by birth is residing in the United States they must also:
- Have one parent, even through adoption, who is a U.S. citizen
- Be a lawful permanent resident of the United States
- Be under the age of 18 years old
- Be in legal and physical custody of the U S citizen parent
If the child of the U.S. citizen is residing outside the United States they must also:
- Have one parent, even an adoptive parent who is a U.S. citizen
- Have a U.S. citizen parent or grandparent who can meet the residential and physical presence requirements
- Be under 18 years old
- In the custody of the U S citizen parent, or if the parent is deceased, is in the custody of someone who does not object their decision to apply for naturalization
- Be physically present and in lawful standing with the U.S. at the time their application is filed as well as at the time of naturalization application.
If you are an immigrant and a green card holder, the different ways to become a citizen can be overwhelming at first glance, but once you have determined the best pathway to citizenship for your specific situation, the process becomes much easier and obtainable. Luckily, there seems to be a pathway for just about anyone who has the desire, patience, and tenacity to obtain U.S. citizenship.
Read more: Dual Nationality Explained
Need Help Becoming a U.S. citizen? Talk To An Immigration Lawyer
However, even if you are a green card holder, it may be difficult to understand certain rules or aspects about the different ways to become a US citizen. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need help interpreting certain rules and regulations prior to initiating the naturalization process, it is always advisable to contact an experienced immigration attorney. Such attorneys have the right training to guide you through the entire process to ensure your pathway to citizenship is as clear as it should be.