Becoming a U.S Citizen and How Long Does it Take?

If you happen to be a green card holder who has fulfilled the requirements for naturalization, you might be wondering whether obtaining U.S. citizenship is the right decision. In case you plan to live and work permanently in the United States, it is absolutely the best solution to your immigration status.

Having made the firm decision about naturalization, it’s imperative to apply for U.S. citizenship at your earliest opportunity. It is important to start the process as soon as possible because of the recently announced immigration policy changes which make naturalization more challenging in the future.

What Are the Benefits of U.S. Citizenship?

Becoming a U.S. citizen is usually the following step for most green card holders who intend to stay either permanently in the United States or for a long time. Since U.S. citizenship provides many advantages not available to green card holders, obtaining one is beneficial for the following:

 

  • Get the right to vote
  • Run for public office
  • Be qualified for federal benefits and employment
  • Enjoy overseas travel longer than six months
  • No fear of deportation
  • Ability to sponsor other qualified family members for green card status
  • Benefit from the tax laws of the U.S.
  • Be qualified for monetary award, scholarships or government grants
  • Be entitled to carry a U.S. passport

To elaborate the previous list, here is a further explanation.

You cannot be deported to your country of former citizenship or nationality. In fact, you have just as much right as any other American to live and work in the United States. Should you happen to be charged with a crime in the future, you will stay in the United States and be submitted to the court of justice like any other American dealing with this issue. Regardless some recent news reports which have indicated that the U.S. government plans to pursue more “denaturalizations” based on prior criminal offenses, there is no room for panic because this should not influence the vast majority of naturalized U.S. citizens.

You can travel with one of the most influential passports in the world. Upon the reception of your Certificate of Naturalization, applying for a U.S. passport is a major benefit of U.S. citizenship. A U.S. passport enables you to travel to more than 180 destinations for short-term trips without a visa, and take as many trips abroad as you want for as long as you want.

You can obtain federal benefits available only to U.S. citizens. As soon as you finish the process of naturalization, you will gain full access to certain government benefits programs, such as federal college assistance which is available only to U.S. citizens.

You can apply for a green card for your relatives. Being a U.S. citizen will give you advantage of being able to sponsor your parents, adult children, and siblings for their own green cards.

Your children automatically become U.S. citizens even if they’re born abroad. In this case, the only thing you need to do is to report your child’s birth to a U.S. embassy or consulate.

You no longer have to deal with immigration paperwork. There is no necessity to renew your green card or pay immigration filing fees. No need to notify USCIS every time you move.

You can apply for jobs with the U.S. government. Since most federal employment is reserved only for U.S. citizens, if you apply for a job in the administration, you, as a federal employee, and your family will receive relatively better benefits and earnings than private-sector workers.

You can vote in any U.S. election. Unlike non-citizens, who may only vote in some local elections, only U.S. citizens are allowed to vote in federal elections.

You can run for elected office. U.S. citizenship is required for federal office and for most positions in public office at the state and local levels.

Responsibilities of a U.S. Citizen

However, benefits always go in hand with certain responsibilities. Aside from identifying more strongly with their native country, some people deliberately choose to forgo U.S. citizenship in favor of remaining green card holders.

You may be required to renounce your citizenship in other countries. Even though the United States permits dual citizenship, your country of origin may not allow this policy. Therefore, you will be required to give up your current citizenship upon becoming an American. For instance, many countries, such as Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, also allow you to be a national of another country. On the other side, India, Japan, and a number of others, require you to relinquish your citizenship in those countries upon becoming an American.

You must file U.S. income tax returns for life regardless of the place you live. Although you live abroad, you must still file U.S. income tax returns. As long as you meet certain requirements, you will be able to exclude from your income up to the yearly limit which is currently over $100,000. Any income that exceeds the limit will be taxed.

Your criminal history will be minutely scrutinized. Have you committed a crime that could make you deportable — such as immigration fraud, drug abuse, or domestic violence, you are advised to seek legal assistance before applying for naturalization.

You may be called upon to serve in the military. Even though mandatory military service enforced by a draft was officially discontinued in 1973, if reinstated, you could be drafted to serve. If you are a male who has lived in the United States or obtained their green card between the ages of 18 and 26, you must register with the Selective Service System.

You may be called upon to serve on a jury. There is a mandatory jury duty in a legal proceeding in the U.S. Although you may not necessarily be chosen to serve, you must attend upon being summoned. Later, in case you get selected by the judge and attorneys, you will actually serve on the jury.

Overview

The process to gain U.S. citizenship can be less than a year or it could get extended to several years, depending on the circumstances under which you are applying for the naturalization process. Your location at the moment when you apply for citizenship could be the reason. In case you are not yet a permanent resident, that is to say, green card holder, this is the starting point of the process. Unless your parents are U.S. citizens, you will have to immigrate to the U.S. first and become a permanent resident. The next step is to establish the required 5-year continuous residency and apply for naturalization. If you are married to a citizen of the United States, the residency requirement is shorter.

As a green card holder who has fulfilled the required years of continuous residency, you are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. The first step is to file Form N-400 and pay the required fees. Your application will be processed by The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It may take between 6 months and 1 year to receive the answer regarding your application. Even the slightest mistake in your application imposes delays in processing. Therefore, you should make sure to avoid any. To properly fulfil the first step, ask assistance from an immigration lawyer and provide all your personal documents not written in English be translated by a certified translator translates.

The moment the USCIS has reviewed and approved your application, you will receive notice from the agency. Then, you will be informed of your schedule of immigration test and interview. After passing the exam and the interview, you may still need to wait for a day, 180 days or about 2 years before you can take the oath of citizenship. The waiting time for the oath-taking ceremony could be affected by your location and the number of future U.S. citizens, where all of you will receive certificates of naturalization.

Step-by-step Process to Become a U.S. Citizen

Being already a permanent resident of the United States, meaning you are a green card holder, you are entitled to apply for the process of receiving a U.S. citizenship.

  1. Download, complete and submit the application form for U.S.

      Citizenship

To be qualified to apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process, you should meet the requirements:

  • 18 years of age and above at the time of application
  • A lawful green card holder for five years
  • An established 5-year-continuous residency and physical presence in the        S.
  • Possess good moral character
  • Have basic knowledge of the English language
  • Have basic knowledge of U.S. history and government
  • Show willingness to take the Oath of Allegiance
  1. Submit to biometric services 
  • Upon reception the application receipt notice from the USCIS, you should go to the local Application Support Center. The precise center is indicated in the USCIS letter on the specified time and date to get fingerprinted.
  • In the meanwhile, The USCIS will conduct a standard background check based on the information you have provided in your application form.
  • There will be cases when the USCIS will request other supporting documents from you. You should comply with the N-400 instructions within the specified time.
  1. Attend the interview and take the exam conducted by the USCIS
  • If there are no discrepancies with your papers and your background, the USCIS will send you an interview appointment letter. The interview preparation should be done by going over all the information included in the application form, the documents and the
  • At least 30 minutes arrival prior the interview schedule is advisable, with the USCIS letter.
  • An identification with photo, as well as copies of the photo you have submitted together with your application, and any other document that the USCIS indicated in its letter should be brought to the center.
  • Simple and honest answers to the interview questions are recommended.
  • The English and history tests should be taken.
  • In case of a successfully completed interview, you will be usually informed on the same day. In certain cases, you may have to wait for a few days before the USCIS gets in touch with you.
  1. Attend the Oath-Taking Ceremony
  • If qualified, you will receive another letter from the USCIS informing you of the time, date and location of the oath-taking ceremony.
  • The venue should be arrived at about 30 minutes to one hour prior to the specified time. A formal dress code.
  • Register and return you green card to the USCIS.
  • A USCIS officer will ask you what you have done from the time you had your interview.
  • Take the oath of allegiance with other applicants like you.
  • Receive your Certificate of Naturalization, confirming that you have fully become a citizen of the United States.

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