What is Naturalization?
Naturalization is the process by which green card holders (with exceptions) of the U.S. can become U.S. citizens. Unfortunately, paths to naturalization vary from applicant to applicant and, therefore, can be a long and confusing journey for some.
Eligibility for Naturalization
There are multiple categories with which the citizen candidate can apply for U.S. citizenship. And eligibility requirements for naturalization vary according to the candidate's category. To reach the categories and look into their specific requirements, please see Citizenship and Naturalization.
However, there are still common requirements that every candidate must meet to be eligible for naturalization:
Listed requirements with a star symbol (*) mean that there are exceptions to them based on military service
- The citizen candidate must be a Green Cardholder*
- (The time you must spend as a permanent resident in the U.S. varies according to your category)
- The citizen candidate must complete their category’s wait time after the Green Card is issued*
- The citizen candidate must be at least 18 years of age.
- The citizen candidate must not take trips six months or longer outside the U.S. during their designated wait time before the naturalization application.
- The citizen candidate must have been residing in the state s/he applies for naturalization for at least three months.
- The citizen candidate must have a good moral character.
- The citizen candidate must accept to serve in the U.S. when called upon for national duty.
- The citizen candidate must be willing to protect the Constitution of the U.S.
To reach the categories and look into their specific requirements, please see Citizenship and Naturalization.
You may also find this useful online Naturalization Eligibility Tool prepared by USCIS, automatically articulating your eligibility with criteria questions.
There are four significant steps of the application leading to naturalization. They are Application for Naturalization, Biometrics Appointment, Citizenship Interview & Civic Exam, and Oath of Allegiance, respectively.
1. Application for Naturalization
You should start your application by filling out and sending Form N-400. Then, you can send the form online or by mail. In order to send N-400 online, you should create an applicant account with USCIS. If you plan to send your application by mail, you must check the Direct Filing Addresses for Form N-400 to avoid processing delays.
While applying for naturalization with Form N-400, you need to pay a filing fee. The current filing fee is $725. Applicants 75 years or older do not pay the biometric fee and pay $640 instead. You may be exempt from the fee if you are a military applicant under INA 328 and 329 (Application and Filing for Service Members).
2. Biometrics Appointment
The next step is your biometrics appointment, where your fingerprint will be taken. USCIS collects fingerprints for applicant background checks. The time and the place of your appointment will be delivered to you by USCIS either online or via email
3. Citizenship Interview & Civics Exam
The next step is going to the citizenship interview. The interview is divided into two parts. The first part is composed of questions from your N-400 form, reaffirming your naturalization eligibility. And the second part is composed of an English language and civics test. English language test will assess whether your written and spoken English is sufficient for naturalization. With the civics test, you will be asked selected basic questions on U.S. history and government.
For the English language requirement, there are some exemptions. If you are:
- Age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident (Green Card holder) in the United States for 20 years (commonly referred to as the “50/20” exception).
- Age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years (commonly referred to as the “55/15” exception).
Even though you are qualified for English language exemption, you must take the civics test.
USCIS makes naturalization test questions available. Currently, the 2008 and 2020 versions are open to access online:
- 2008 (10 out of 100 questions were asked to test-takers that year)
- 2020 (20 out of 128 questions were asked to test-takers that year)
To see the exceptions and accommodations granted for certain individuals on naturalization examinations, please see examinations and accommodations.
4. Oath of Allegiance
The last step before naturalization is taking the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. and the constitution. Then, the time and place will be delivered to your address by mail. After the ceremony, you will be given a Certificate of Naturalization and officially become a U.S. citizen!
Wait Time for Naturalization
The current wait time for all candidates ranges from 1.5 years to 2 years. You may find a helpful online Case Processing Times tool of USCIS to learn more about the details of naturalization processing.
Grape Law is the Right Place for You
As Grape Law firm, we are up to the challenge that comes with the naturalization process for our clients. No matter how long your naturalization will take, we are eager to accompany you with our legal expertise and dedicated client service. We look forward to hearing from you with any questions and inquiries concerning naturalization and can’t wait to be a part of your citizenship journey!