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What Are the Steps in the Naturalization Process?

What are the steps in the naturalization process? Attorneys from Do Law Office can answer your questions about this and other legal matters. Call us today!

Naturalization: How Does It Work?

Naturalization is the procedure through which an immigrant may become a US citizen. Not all immigrants qualify for the naturalization application. Only an immigrant who has been a lawful permanent resident for three to five years or satisfies particular military service criteria can apply for the naturalization process.

To get naturalized, a candidate for citizenship must complete specific requirements. Legislative standards assist the immigration service in ensuring that only those with a genuine desire to become US citizens get naturalized. Below is an in-depth examination of the fundamentals of citizenship, including naturalization eligibility and application procedures.

Qualifications for Naturalization

Before explaining the naturalization application process, we must discuss the eligibility requirements for naturalization. According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), naturalization candidates seeking citizenship in the US must meet the following requirements:

  • Unless applying based on military service, the candidates need to establish residency in the US for three to five years after receiving a green card.

  • The minimum age to apply for citizenship and naturalization services is eighteen.

  • The candidate cannot spend more than 180 days abroad during the three- to five-year waiting period.

  • The candidate needs to demonstrate good moral character. Good moral character is roughly defined as conforming to the norms of ordinary community members. Specifically, it indicates that you have never been convicted of certain crimes, such as murder, illegal gambling, or knowingly lying to the US government to get immigration advantages.

  • The candidate must pass two parts of the naturalization examination: a basic English test (encompassing reading, writing, and speaking abilities) and a civics test (covering knowledge of US history and government).

  • If required, you must be willing to take on mandatory military service or undertake civilian duty for the US;

  • You must be prepared to defend the United States Constitution.

If you are still determining if you qualify under these criteria, you may consult a green card lawyer to know your options.

The following are a few exceptions to the above requirements. To understand how these exemptions affect you, you may need the services of a naturalization lawyer.

    Exceptions Based on Disability

    Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, applicants with disabilities or mental impairments may not be required to take the English and civics exams. To apply for the exemption, a medical practitioner must complete Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions.


    Exceptions Based on Military Service

    Individuals applying for citizenship based on any length of wartime military service are excluded from all residency requirements. The applicant’s criminal record must be clear of specific offenses for a minimum of one year before filing.

    Green card holders that are members or former members of the US military must complete the following extra requirements under immigration laws:

    • You cannot have deserted from the US military

    • You cannot have ever been discharged or exempted from the US military based on your non-citizen status

      What Are the Steps of the Naturalization Process?

      File Your Naturalization Application

      Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is used for the formal application for citizenship.

      An application fee of $725 plus $85, which is for biometrics, may be required for your application. You will also need to include a few additional supporting documents. Visit the USCIS application online checklist for a comprehensive list of necessary documents.

      You can file online or submit a paper application at the nearest USCIS office. You may also submit payment online or send a money order or check in favor of the USCIS. After submitting Form N-400, USCIS will receive a receipt notification.

      You may monitor processing timelines and the status of your case online at the USCIS website. Be careful to maintain a duplicate of your form since the evaluator will ask you questions to check the information on your application during the interview.


      What if I Am Unable to Pay the Filing Fee?

      If your income prevents you from paying the filing fees, you may request a fee reduction or waiver.

      Attend Your Biometrics Appointment

      Once your application is received, the USCIS will contact you to schedule an appointment for biometrics services. You are required to provide your signature, picture, and fingerprints. The biometrics appointment also includes a criminal background check.


      Show Up for Your Interview

      After USCIS processes your application and determines that you are preliminarily eligible, a USCIS officer will schedule an interview. During your naturalization interview, a USCIS officer will ask you application-related questions. They will also administer an English and US civics test, although you may be eligible for exemptions based on age, disability, or other factors.

      During the interview, the officer will analyze your communication skills. Thus, the English exam consists of either reading aloud one of three sentences or writing one of another set of three phrases.

      For the civics test, the officer will give you ten questions out of a pool of 100, and you must answer correctly six out of ten.

      If you fail one or both tests, USCIS will arrange a second interview to provide you with a second opportunity. If you fail a second time, your application will be denied. So, it would be best if you took the interview preparation seriously.

      On the day of the interview, the officer may let you know the outcome of your application. In rare instances, they may want more time or information to evaluate your eligibility for citizenship.


      Naturalization Ceremony

      Your citizenship application process is incomplete until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony. Before the ceremony, you must complete the inquiry on Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Ceremony Oath Taking.

      On the oath of allegiance ceremony day, you must be physically present at the ceremony site. A USCIS official will evaluate your Form N-445 replies. Ensure you return your permanent resident card (green card) at the event.

      After completing this stage, the Department of Homeland Security, through the USCIS district, will issue you a Certificate of Naturalization. The certificate officially entitles you to all the rights and privileges of becoming a US citizen.

      Before leaving the ceremony site, review the certificate issued to you and tell the USCIS of any problems you find.

      Preparing for the Naturalization Interview and Tests

      Understand the Interview Structure

      The naturalization interview is a critical step in your journey towards U.S. citizenship, designed to verify your application’s details and assess your readiness to become a citizen. Expect questions about your background, application, and character. Familiarize yourself with the N-400 form you submitted; inconsistencies between your interview responses and form entries can raise concerns.

      Study for the Civics and English Tests

      Applicants must pass civics and English proficiency tests. The civics test covers U.S. history and government, with study materials provided by the USCIS on their official website. For the English test, you will need to demonstrate an understanding of written and spoken English. Practice reading, writing simple sentences, and speaking about everyday topics.

      Prepare Your Documents

      Organize and bring all required documents to your interview. This includes your permanent resident card, passport, and any re-entry permits. Check the USCIS website for a complete checklist relevant to your situation, ensuring you have all necessary documents to avoid delays in your application process.

      Mock Interviews

      Consider conducting mock interviews with a friend or family member. This practice can ease anxiety and improve your confidence. Focus on clear, concise responses and maintaining composure, which can be crucial in a formal interview setting.

      Health and Safety

      On the day of the interview, arrive early and dressed appropriately, akin to a job interview. Ensure you follow all current health guidelines, including wearing masks if required, to protect yourself and others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Get Help with Your Naturalization Application

      Do you intend to become a naturalized citizen of the US? Our immigration lawyers at Do Law Office can guide you through each stage.

      Our attorneys can give you the assistance you need to achieve your immigration objectives. This might include gathering certain documents, interview preparation, and much more. 

      Contact us today.

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