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How to Become a U.S. Citizen

The citizenship of United States of America has been a dream for many individuals residing all over the globe and people are often found pondering over a golden question ‘how to become a U.S. citizen’? Because acquiring the nationality of the super power of the world is definitely a much coveted status for citizens of other countries. Individuals not only dream of becoming a U.S. citizen but also go to great extents to obtain the most desired citizenship in the entire world. Although the whole process of acquiring citizenship of the United States is not that difficult but it gets extensive as you are required to put in your time and efforts to ensure the successful achievement of the final result. Before we answer your question about how to become a U.S. citizen, let us tell you that there is not one specific method to become a U.S. national, instead you can gain the nationality through various methods that will be discussed below. In order to gain complete knowledge onhow to become a U.S. citizen, every individual should be well-aware about all the methods used for this purpose. So, let’s begin with the first and the most common method of acquiring the U.S.citizenship i.e. the naturalization process.

How to become aU.S.citizenthrough naturalization?

Naturalization is the method through which a foreign national or citizen of any other country can acquire citizenship of the United States of America. But the process of naturalization can only take place when the individual is eligible for the naturalization. While the eligibility of the applicant is judged by some basic requirements set by the congress under the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act). An individual must fulfil all the requirements and meet the eligibility criteria mentioned below, to qualify for acquiring U.S.citizenship through naturalization.

1.    You must be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) in the U.S.

The first and the most important requirement of becoming a U.S. citizen is being a legal permanent resident in the U.S. So, how can you be a permanent resident in the United States prior to being a citizen? By being a green card holder! First of all you must be a green card holder for at least 5 years prior to the time of filing the application for naturalization (Form N-400). But one more condition that applies over here is that the green card holder should hold a conditional green card. The answer of how to become a U.S. citizen, is so vast that it’s important to cover each and every aspect of it. Conditional green card holders are those residents who acquired their green card through a marriage which is at least 2 years old or those who acquired green card through the (EB-5) ‘Immigrant Investor Visa Program’ and are currently at the initial stage of the 2-year period of obtainingthe permanent residency status.

2.    You must be at least 18 years old or above

Before going into further details on how to become a U.S. citizen, you must know that age is also one of the most important eligibility criteria. The individual applying for naturalization should be at least 18 years old or above. While in other circumstances, if your parents already hold a green card and you are under 18 years of age, then there are chances that you may be a permanent citizen already. So in order to confirm the status, you must consult an expert immigration lawyer as he/she will determine whether you are a U.S. citizen at present or not.

3.    You must stay in the particular state for 3 months

Before filing for the naturalization, it is necessary that you must have lived for a minimum time period of three months in the particular state or U.S.C.I.S. district with authority over the place of residence. Time span less than three months will become a hindrance in the application of your citizenship. Therefore, you must consult an immigration attorney before taking any step further because it will help you in getting a better understanding on how to become a U.S. citizen.

4.    You must be physically present in the U.S.

Just holding a green card is not enough for the naturalization as you must have a continuous 5 years of stay in the United States from the date you obtained the green card. However the time frame will differ if you have acquired your green card through your wedlock with a U.S. citizen and you are currently residing with your spouse under a marital union. In this case, being a permanent resident in the U.S. for only three years, will also make you eligible for the U.S.citizenship. But if you ask an attorney about how to become a U.S. citizen, then you will come to know about the further details of these time frames. Like during the required time frame of five years or three years, you are allowed to leave the country or go on a vacation but not more than a time period of 6 months. If you are out of the country for more than six months or on a trip for the same period, you will fail to qualify for the naturalization. In addition to it, you must be physically present in the country for more than half of the time period required for the naturalization process i.e. 912 days or two and a half years for the five-year time frame and 547 days or one and a half years for the three-year time frame. You will be asked to fill up a worksheet which comes along the application of U.S.citizenship, in which you will have to add up all the days you were out of the country. This process can get difficult if you have been traveling continuously but an immigration attorney can help you in keeping the track of all your trips. You can also ask them to suggest you an ideal time to apply for naturalization if you have been traveling extensively over the years.

5.    You must bare a good moral character

The next point you need to know about how to become a U.S. citizen is that, you must bare a good moral character as well. For both the time frames of five and three years immediately preceding the application of naturalization, you must portray yourself as a law abiding resident baring good moral character. The immigration laws of the United States broadly defines ‘good moral character’ under the law ‘I.N.A 101(f)’. While there is no criminal sentence for some particular crimes such as, if you fail to support your spouse and children, if you fail to pay taxes to the government or if you get involved in some adultery treatment to call off a marriage, these are the few crimes that won’t be convicted. You must take your criminal history into account (if any) and consult an immigration lawyer before applying for the citizenship through naturalization. If you have a criminal history, the attorney will give you suggestions about how to become a U.S. citizen having past criminal records and he/she will also determine the time when you should apply for the citizenship based on your history. However, U.S.C.I.S will still be able to see your removed convictions in your application. Not only this, but your moral character will also be judged on the basis of your honesty because your naturalization process can be in danger, if any fake information is sensed by the immigration services. While you can also be accused of fraud if the U.S.C.I.S finds your current answers to be different from the one you wrote in your older green card application.

6.    You must have basic knowledge about the English language, U.S. history and U.S. government

The details mentioned above on how to become a U.S. citizen are not finished yet. The next condition for U.S. citizenship is that you must have the basic knowledge about English language. You must be capable enough to read, speak and write the basic level English in order to be naturalized. You will have to give an English language test during the interview at U.S.C.I.S. (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Not only the English language, but you must have know-how about the history of the United States and the U.S. government as well. The interview will include 10 questions related to both the topics and the applicant must answer at least 6 correctly in order to pass the exam. Just getting concerned about how to become a U.S. citizen is not enough and you must ask your immigration lawyer to assist you in the preparation of the interview. You can also refer to the numerous study papers available online to prepare yourself for the civics and English language test.

Is there any way to get the English and civics test exempted?

In the process of knowing more about how to become a U.S. citizen, you should also know the fact that there are some situations in which you can get exempted from the English and civics exam. Like if you are 50 years old or above and have resided in the U.S. for continuous 20 years or if you are over 55 years of age and have continuously lived in the US for 15 years, then you will be exempted from the English exam. Whereas, if you are 65 years old or above and has been a U.S. resident for 20 years, then you are allowed to give the civics exam in your local language.

How to become a U.S. citizen through the U.S. armed forces?

Apart from those mentioned above, you also become eligible for getting the citizenship through naturalization if you have worked with the U.S. armed forces. If you have been a member of the U.S. military for at least one year, then you easily qualify for the citizenship. Being associated with the armed forces gives you an edge over other applicants who cannot apply for the naturalization before the completion of their 5-year time frame, but you can do it conveniently with just one year of service in the military. Being eligible for the citizenship requires you to work in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard and serve the country with honor. But if you left the armed forces after one year of service then you must file your naturalization application (N-400) within 6 months of your honorable release from the forces. Now that you know how to become a U.S. citizen through U.S. military, so you should also know that you can naturalize even if you are discharged from the armed forces due to some other honorable reasons. But then the armed forces benefit will not be applied on you and you will need to file your application through the 5 year or 3 year residency criteria.

How to become a U.S. citizen through your spouse?

After discussing the first method on how to become a U.S. citizen, let’s move on to another method i.e. getting citizenship through your U.S. national spouse. This has become a very common method of acquiring nationality in the U.S. nowadays. If a U.S. citizen is legally employed in the country by the U.S. government or any other lawful employer then his/her spouse becomes eligible to apply for the citizenship under the INA section 319 (b)but the citizen should be employed in the U.S. for at least one year before being able to sponsor the spouse. However, there are some other specifications like, if the citizenship application has been submitted for the spouse of a U.S. citizen who is employed overseas, then the spouse must be physically present in the U.S. when the application is being examined and processed. Plus the spouse of a U.S. citizen must meet the eligibility criteria mentioned above, but there are few requirements like,it is necessary for the spouse to be a permanent resident (green card holder) before getting naturalized. Being a spouse of a U.S. citizen, you will be called as an ‘immediate relative’ in the language of immigration laws. That’s where you will get lucky, because there are no annual time frame limits for the green card holders under this category. Therefore you don’t have to wait for the 5 year period of your green card acquisition to complete, so that you can apply for the citizenship through naturalization. If you are married and constantly living with your spouse who is a U.S. citizen, then you can file your naturalization application just after 3 years of acquiring your green card. We are not done with the methods yet, so carry on reading to know more about how to become a U.S. citizen.

How to become a U.S. citizen by birth?

Now that you know how to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization, let us tell you that there’s one more method of acquiring the U.S. citizenship and this is the easiest out of all. Why? Because you don’t have to file for any application or go through any tests and interviews, you just have to be born in the United States and you will be become a U.S. citizen automatically.Now if you are not a U.S. citizen already, read this for your future kids! If a child is born in the U.S. or its territories, then he/she will automatically become a U.S.citizen by birth. Once an individual is born in the U.S. it will be a lifelong citizenship until the individual decides to give it up. If at least one out of both the parents is a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth, then the child will automatically gain citizenship through the acquisition process. However, if the child is born to any of the diplomats or government officials of the foreign countries, then the child will not receive the citizenship even if born in America. So these were the basic details one should know about how to become a U.S. citizen. But we have the answer of more common question for you, read on to find out!

How long does it take to acquire the U.S. citizenship after filing the application?

As we have brought the basic information on how to become a U.S. citizen to your knowledge, now you must also know about the total time period of obtaining your citizenship after filing an application for the same. The total time frame for the approval of your citizenship application variesdepending on individuals and locations. Normally it takes 5 to 8 months of time between the filing of application and the test and interview. But as we said, it depends on the location as well, like if you reside in an area having large population of immigrants waiting for their file to be processed, then you may have to wait for around 2 years or above. However the time frame varies depending on different factors, therefore you need tounderstand every detail about how to become a U.S. citizen and what happens in between. Once you send your application via mail, you must receive back a green postcard that was included in your application.In case you don’t receive the certified receipt, you must cross check with the U.S. mail service and ensure that your application is not lost.After that you have to wait for the official confirmation from the U.S.C.I.S stating that they have entered your application in the immigration system. Once your application enters the system of the immigration services, it will be sent to the local district office of the U.S.C.I.S in your area. However, you will not get to know about your application being sent to the district office. But you will receive a notification from the office at some point during the whole time period, to fix an appointment with an officer at the immigration services. The officer will call you for taking your fingerprints if you are between 14 to 75 years of age, unless the officer waives the fingerprint requirements himself.Once done with the fingerprints, next you will get a date scheduled for your immigration interview and test. Just like the application, the time period of receiving an interview call cannot be determined as well, because it also depends on your location. It’s difficult to wait for the process to take place without a given time frame but you can pacify yourself by tracking your immigration application on the website of U.S.C.I.S. Keeping track on the application regularly will help you sense the time period it will take for the process to complete. Once you get done with the citizenship exam and interview, you will have to wait on an average between one day and 180 days to take the oath and finally become a citizen of the United States of America. We hope that this comprehensive and detailed blog on how to become a U.S. citizen, helped you in gaining necessary information about the procedure and methods. But if you still have any confusion then you can ask a professional immigration lawyer or contact U.S.C.I.S. and they will make sure to provide you with all the important details on how to become a U.S. citizen. Sources    

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