If you are born in the U.S., you are automatically a U.S. citizen. If you are not born in the U.S., however, you still may be able to become a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process. A naturalized U.S. citizen enjoys all of the same rights and protections as a U.S. citizen by birth. Among these rights is the right to vote, the right to hold an elected position or a federal job, and the right to enjoy priority status in bringing relatives to live in the U.S.
There are several requirements that you may have to meet in order to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. You must live in the U.S. continuously for a certain period of time, and within the same U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) district for a certain period of time. You must have knowledge of U.S. history and government, and be able to read and write in English. You must be of good moral character. You also must believe in the principles of the Constitution, and have a positive view of the U.S. If you meet all of these requirements, you can become a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process. In some circumstances, you may not have to meet all of these requirements, such as, for example, if you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen. All people who wish to become naturalized citizens, however, must exhibit good morals, a belief in the Constitution and its principles, and have a favorable disposition toward the U.S.
When you apply for naturalization, you must complete a certain application form. Along with your application form, you must also pay a filing fee, and submit two passport-sized photographs of yourself. The current filing fee is $595.00. If you are under the age of 75, you may also have to pay a fee in order to be fingerprinted, which is currently $80.00. Depending on your situation, you may also be asked to submit certain additional documents to the USCIS along with your application.
After you submit the necessary forms to your local USCIS Service Center, you will be scheduled to attend a naturalization interview at a USCIS district office or another location. You must attend this interview, or your application will be denied, unless you reschedule the interview within one year of your application. Right now, there is a very high number of applications for naturalization, so the naturalization process may take six months or more, and your interview may be scheduled to take place after regular business hours, or on a weekend.
You should bring identification and any other requested documents to your interview. At your interview, the USCIS officer will place you under oath, and ask you questions about your application and background information. It is important to be truthful when filling out your application for naturalization and meeting with a USCIS officer for your interview. Even if you have committed only a minor crime, if you do not disclose this crime on your application and/or to the USCIS officer who is interviewing you, your application for naturalization could be denied.
Once your application for naturalization is approved, you will attend a formal naturalization ceremony at which you will take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. In some circumstances, you may be able to take the oath at the same time as your naturalization interview. You will also receive a Certificate of Naturalization, which is proof of your status as a naturalized U.S. citizen.
When it comes to immigration and whether you can live and work where you want, every detail matters. When the slightest paperwork error or missed deadline can mean years of delays, it is essential to do things right the first time. An experienced immigration lawyer can address your particular needs with immigration, and put you in the best position for a positive outcome. Take the first step now and contact a local immigration attorney to discuss your rights and specific situation.