USA and the UK
- Overview of U.S. Citizenship
- Differences Between U.S. Citizenship and U.S. Nationality
- Eligibility Requirements for U.S. Citizenship
- What is the Cost of U.S. Citizenship by Naturalization?
- Who is Eligible to Apply for U.S. Citizenship Through Naturalization?
- Naturalization Requirements
- How to apply for U.S. citizenship
- Main Legal Aspects of the U.S. Citizenship
- How Can IAS Help?
Overview of U.S. Citizenship
U.S. residents may acquire citizenship automatically by descent if they are born to U.S. citizens. They can also do this by registration through the process of naturalization, or through birth, or they can acquire U.S. citizenship through marriage.
Naturalization is the process which allows U.S. immigrants to become citizens of the United States. It is limited to only a category of immigrants: those who have been issued their green cards (permanent residents) for 3–5 years. It is also available to those who meet various military service requirements.
The processing time for American citizenship is between 8 to 14 months. This timeline includes all the processes from application stage to where applicants take their oath of allegiance to the United States.
Differences Between U.S. Citizenship and U.S. Nationality
The terms are often used interchangeably, but they have different constitutional implications and requirements. In the legal point of view, these two mean different things. A U.S. citizen is automatically a U.S. national, but the reverse is sometimes untrue. U.S. citizens have less restrictions and more benefits than U.S. nationals. U.S. nationals can apply for citizenship after 3 months of physical presence or residency in the United States.
Eligibility Requirements for U.S. Citizenship
To be eligible for U.S. citizenship, you must meet certain eligibility requirements, including being:
- At least 18 years old when you apply
- Able to read, write, and speak basic English (depending on age)
- Of good moral character
- Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government;
- Demonstrate a loyalty to the principles of the U.S. constitution
- Be willing to take oath of allegiance
- Have continuous residence and physical presence in the United States.
You must also be in one of these categories:
- Lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) of five years
- Married to a U.S. citizen
- U.S. military service member (active duty or veteran)
- Child of a U.S. citizen
What is the Cost of U.S. Citizenship by Naturalization?
The cost of U.S. citizenship for those who seek naturalization is currently $725. This fee includes a $640 processing fee and around $85 which goes into biometrics payments. This fee does not apply to applicants who have served in the U.S. military. Aged applicants older than 75 years are also exempted from the biometric fees.
Who is Eligible to Apply for U.S. Citizenship Through Naturalization?
Eligibility for naturalization generally depends on a number of factors:
- How long you’ve had your green card
- How long you’ve physically lived in the United States
- Whether you’ve served in the U.S. military (and if so, whether your service was during “peacetime” or “wartime”)
- Applicants holding a U.S. green card, who do not have any special circumstances are able to apply for U.S. citizenship. They need to wait 5 years after obtaining their green card to make an application for citizenship. Also, applicants are required to have lived in the U.S. for a period of 2.5 years or 30 months in the 5 years required.
- Residents who have constituted at least 3 years of marriage and have lived with their American citizen spouse within that period of time are eligible to apply for citizenship. They must apply only after 3 years of obtaining their U.S. green card. This category of applicants should have lived in the United States for a minimum period of 18 months or 1.5 years. Their spouse must also have been a U.S. citizen for a period of 3 years.
- Applicants who were living with their partners who died while serving in the U.S. military may apply for U.S. citizenship at any time. They are required to have their green card at any time of their citizenship application. There are no time constraints on when to have a green card for the purpose of this citizenship application. The only requirement is that applicants are living with their partners at the time of their death in the military service.
- Applicants who have served in the U.S. military for a least period of 12 months during peacetime are allowed to apply while in service.
- Applicants who have served in the U.S. military for less than a year of peacetime need to apply after 5 years of holding a green card.
- Applicants who have at least 12 months of military service during peacetime, and filing for citizenship 6 months after separating honorably from service need to have held a green card for a period of 5 years.
- Applicants who have served in the U.S. military for any period of time during wartime can apply for citizenship at any time.
In addition to the five-year requirement, you must also fulfil the following requirements in order to be eligible for U.S. citizenship through naturalization. You must:
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Not have taken any trips of six months or longer outside of the U.S. during your three- or five- month qualifying period.
- Have been residing in the state where you plan to apply for citizenship for at least 3 months.
- Have “good moral character,” which broadly refers to things such as not having a criminal record and not having any characteristics or marks that may call into doubt your ability to act as a good citizen.
- Pass the naturalization interview, which includes an English test and a Civics test.
- Be willing to perform civilian service or serve in the U.S. military if asked.
- Be willing to defend the U.S. Constitution.
Exceptions based on disability
Applicants with a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment may be exempt from the English and civics test requirement above. They may apply for the exemption by filing Form N-648 (officially called the “Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions”), which is completed by a medical doctor.
Exceptions based on peacetime military service
Individuals who apply for naturalization based on at least one year of peacetime military service are exempt from requirement Nos. 2 and 3 above. To meet requirement No. 4, the applicant must not have committed certain crimes during the five years before applying.
Exceptions based on wartime military service
Applicants to apply to naturalize based on a period of wartime military service may be exempt from requirement number 1, 2 and 3. To meet requirement No. 4, the applicant must not have committed certain crimes during the five years before applying.
Step 1: Application for Naturalization
To become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you must first file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and pay the filing fee. If you wish to apply online, you must create an account with U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services (USCIS). Or alternatively, you can apply by paper.
You will be required to apply by paper if you’re applying based on grounds of military service, if you’re applying from abroad, or if you need to take advantage of a fee reduction or waiver.
You will be able to file Form N-900 to USCIS 90 days before you fulfil the three- or five-year residency requirements.
Step 2: Biometrics Appointment
You will then need to attend a biometrics appointment at your local USCIS office. At this appointment, a USCIS officer will take your fingerprints and conduct a background check. Biometrics appointments normally take place about a month after USCIS receives your application.
Step 3: Citizenship Interview and Exam
The next step of the process is attending a citizenship interview and exam. This will normally take place around 14 months after USCIS receives your application, though this may vary depending on the speed in which your local USCIS office processes your case. Interviews normally take place at a USCIS office if you’re already in the U.S. or a U.S. embassy or consulate if you’re abroad.
During the interview, a USCIS officer will verify that the information you’ve provided in your application is accurate. You will also undergo a two-part naturalization test. The first component is an English language test, while the second is a civics test, and will assess your knowledge of U.S. history, government and customs. There is an official study guide published by USCIS to help you prepare for this exam.
If you pass the interview and exam, your application for citizenship will be approved at the end of the interview. In some cases, however, you may be asked for additional documentation or be asked to return for a second interview.
If you don’t pass the exam or interview, you will receive a letter detailing the reason why. You may also be able to appeal the refusal within 30 days of receiving the letter.
Step 4: Oath of Allegiance
After your application is approved, you will attend a citizenship ceremony and take the Oath of Allegiance.
You will normally receive a letter detailing the date, time, and location of the ceremony.
You’ll be asked to return your green card when you check in. Once the ceremony is over, you’ll receive a Certificate of Naturalization and become a fully-fledged U.S. citizen.
Main Legal Aspects of the U.S. Citizenship
There are some key aspects of becoming a U.S. citizen that you should ensure that you’re aware of. Depending on your own personal circumstances, these may include the following:
- If you’re the citizen of a country that does not allow dual-citizenship, you may have to renounce your citizenship to that country before becoming naturalized as a U.S. citizen. The U.S. does allow dual citizenship however, so it is possible to be a U.S. citizen and a citizen of another country.
- You may be required to serve in the U.S. military. If you are a male U.S. citizen or green card holder and lived in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 25, you must normally register with the Selective Service System.
- You may need to carry out jury duty in the U.S. Only individuals who hold certain titles and positions, such as active-duty military service members, fire and police department workers and certain public government officers may be exempt. In addition, those aged 71 and older may also be exempt.
- You are required to file U.S. income tax returns, regardless of whether or not you’ll be living in the U.S.
- If you’ve been convicted of certain crimes such as immigration fraud, domestic violence or drug offences, this could negatively affect your chances of being approved to become a U.S. citizen. If this applies to you, it’s especially important to seek legal assistance before applying for naturalization by reaching out to us today on +1 844 290 6312 or contact us online.
Applying for U.S. citizenship can be a quite complicated process. You may require assistance to ascertain the documentation submission and certain application procedure. IAS can help you understand the procedure clearly and assess the ways in which you are eligible.
We are a formidable team of professional and knowledgeable immigration lawyers who have years’ worth of experience working in U.S. immigration law. We have helped countless people overcome hurdles to acquire U.S. citizenship, and we can help you to do the same, too.
Whether you need expert advice on how to prove your financial status or your health insurance meets the requirements, or you need help determining how to prove suitability to apply after being away from the U.S. for some time, we can be of help.
For more information about U.S. citizenship, including what you need to do to be eligible for it, how to apply, and expert advice for your application, reach out to us today on +1 844 290 6312 or contact us online.
Last modified on August 3rd, 2023 at 8:34 am
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