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US Citizenship FAQs

There are two routes to US citizenship. Individuals can either become a citizen by birthright (which is automatic), or by opting for naturalization (which entails submitting an application, taking tests and swearing an oath).

To find out how you could become a US citizen, contact IAS on +1 844 290 6312. Our lawyers are familiar with the naturalization process from start to finish, so they can answer any questions you have about US citizenship.

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    What is the Difference Between Birthright Citizenship and Naturalization?

    When someone is born in the US, they are entitled to birthright citizenship, which is written into the 14th Amendment of the US constitution. This means they do not have to pursue a lengthy process to obtain citizenship.

    The only exceptions to this are children born to foreign diplomats and children born in certain US territories, such as American Samoa. The latter would be American nationals but not citizens.

    On the other hand, anyone who was not born in the country must apply for citizenship via naturalization, which is earned by residing permanently in the country for a set period of time.

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    What is the Eligibility Criteria For US Citizenship Through Naturalization?

    Citizenship through naturalization is available to people who were not born into US citizenship.

    The US citizenship requirements for naturalization are: to have lived in the country consistently for at least five years as a lawful permanent resident and to meet the minimum age requirement of 18 years old.

    In terms of knowledge and understanding, it is essential to be able to communicate in basic English (written and spoken), to be loyal to the principles of the US constitution, and to be familiar with US history and government. US citizenship applicants must also demonstrate good moral character.

    When applying via naturalization, the candidate is also expected to be prepared to take the Oath of Allegiance.

    The naturalization process is different for certain groups. For example, members or ex-members of the US armed forces do not always have to meet the five year residence requirement. Spouses of US citizens who have lived in the US for three years in marital union are also eligible for naturalization.

    When a non-US citizen wants to gain citizenship, they must be able to prove that they have been a Green Card holder for at least five years. They must also provide proof of tax return submissions, Selective Service registration (for men only) and evidence that they have not registered to vote.

    Finally, having a criminal record can interfere with an individual’s eligibility for naturalization. Applicants must be transparent about their criminal record, which includes providing information about the crime committed, the conviction date, and the official sentence.

    It is more likely that applications detailing crimes of moral turpitude will be denied. This includes sentences relating to murder, child pornography, and rape. However, there is always a risk of rejection with any criminal record. Fortunately, it is possible to apply for a waiver and therefore potentially obtain citizenship even with a history of crime.

    What is the Naturalization Application Process?

    Firstly, anyone wanting to become a US citizen must submit the N-400 application form to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), providing all of the required information and documents.

    When the application has been received, the next step is to attend the appointments for US naturalization. The first stage is the biometrics appointment, where the applicant’s identity and background is verified. After this, the English language and civics tests will be arranged.

    Following on from the tests, the applicant must await the decision of USCIS, which can take up to 4 months. At this time, the results of the tests will be revealed to the applicant.

    Individuals who successfully pass the tests, and are approved by USCIS, must prepare to take the Oath of Allegiance at the Oath Ceremony. When this stage is complete, a naturalization certificate will be handed to the new US citizen.

    For more information on what the US citizenship application entails, get in touch with IAS on +1 844 290 6312.

    How Long Does the Naturalization Process Take?

    The average time for the application process is 12 months. Some applications are much quicker than others, and are finalized within just 6 months. After the initial 6-12 month period, further steps need to be taken before US citizenship is offered. In total, the process can take up to 2 years.

    Delays in the naturalization process are often unavoidable. However, applicants who provide all of the correct information may not experience any delays, provided that there is no significant backlog in applications.

    What is the Fee for Naturalization?

    The total cost of naturalization is $725. This is made up of a $640 application fee and an $85 biometrics fee.

    There are discounts available to certain groups. Anyone aged 75 or older will not be required to pay the biometrics fee. Applicants aged between 18-74 who receive an application fee reduction will only have to pay $405 for the application. For people aged 75 or older, the fee is reduced to $320. Free applications are available to veterans and active-duty military workers, as well as individuals who receive a fee waiver.

    Confused about the US citizenship process? Explore our comprehensive US Citizenship FAQ to find the information you need. Contact Us

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      Are There Background Checks For Naturalization?

      Yes, a thorough background check is carried out by the USCIS for all naturalization applicants. As well as checking for criminal records, the USCIS investigates identity and residency, implements FBI fingerprinting and reviews immigration records.

      Background check appointments are scheduled after an application is received  and they take place before the US citizenship tests.

      How Many Days Can I Be Outside Of the US For Citizenship?

      US citizenship applicants have a much better chance of gaining citizenship if they have not been outside of the US for six months or longer, since they have resided in the country. Temporary travel is permitted, but applicants must not be outside of the US for more than six months within one year.

      If the applicant traveled for 6-12 months, there is a risk to their application, but it may still be approved. If they traveled for over 12 months, their application will be denied.

      What are the Tests For US Citizenship?

      Naturalization applicants must take an English language proficiency test, and a civics test, as part of the citizenship process. Study materials for these tests can be found on the USCIS website.

      English language proficiency test

      This test is divided into three parts:

      • Reading test – this is taken on a digital tablet, which displays one sentence at a time for the individual to read. The immigration officer must be confident that the naturalization applicant understands the meaning of the sentences, even if their pronunciation or intonation is not perfect.
      • Writing test – the immigration officer reads sentences aloud, and the applicant must translate this into written communication, using the digital tablet provided.E ach sentence must be legible in order for the officer to move onto the next sentence. There will be three chances given for each sentence.
      • Speaking test – a discussion of the applicant’s US citizenship application. The ability to understand English, and express oneself in English, is evaluated by the immigration officer.

      Civics test

      During the civics test, applicants must answer 10 questions relating to US history and government. In order to pass, they must give the correct response to at least 6 out of 10 questions.

      The questions are randomly selected out of a set list, and they mostly revolve around government, but knowledge of US history is also extremely important for this test.

      Some examples of questions asked during the civics test are:

      History questions

      • When was the constitution written?
      • Name one problem that led to the civil war
      • Who did the United States fight in WWII?

      Government questions

      • In what month do we vote for President?
      • How many US senators are there?
      • What does the judicial branch do?

      Most applicants could be asked any of the questions on the list. However, people over the age of 65 who have resided permanently in the US for at least 20 years have a smaller range of questions to answer. There are also disability waivers for people whose memory is affected by their condition. Adjustments can be made for these applicants.

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        What is the Oath Of Allegiance?

        The Oath of Allegiance is a series of promises that an individual must make before they are accepted as a US citizen. They must commit to defending the Constitution, taking part in military service if required by the law, and demonstrating loyalty to the United States. The exact wording of the oath can be found on the USCIS website.

        As the applicant reads the Oath of Allegiance aloud, they must place their hand on their heart. It is not obligatory to commit the oath to memory, as the script will be provided.

        What Documentation is Required For the Naturalization Interview?

        Applicants are informed of the documentation they need to provide when they submit their naturalization application.

        A form of identification, such as a passport, state identification card, or driver’s license, is required. All valid and expired passports and travel documents relating to absences from the US must be taken to the interview.

        As well as this, applicants must bring their appointment notice, the I-551 form and their permanent resident card.

        There are no exceptions to these requirements, and individuals who arrive to the appointment without these documents could be denied US citizenship.

        Can US Citizenship Be Revoked?

        There are certain circumstances in which USCIS believes it is necessary to revoke US citizenship. This is known as denaturalization. Here are some examples of when denaturalization may occur:

        Membership in subversive groups

        Subversive groups are organizations viewed as inflammatory by the US government. Examples include the Communist Party USA and Al-Qaeda. Members of these groups are acting in direct violation of the Oath of Allegiance.

        Application to another country’s naturalization process

        If an individual applies to become a citizen of another country, without abiding by the laws of dual citizenship, their US citizenship could be automatically revoked.

        Refusal to testify before congress

        Anyone who is ordered to testify before congress for a crime they have committed must do so, otherwise their citizenship could be removed.

        Falsification or concealment of relevant facts

        If an individual is found guilty of submitting a false application, their citizenship will be revoked when this is discovered.

        Some examples include: marriage fraud, an absence of an existing criminal record, and false names.

        Dishonorable military discharge

        Green card holders who are dishonorably discharged from the military must give up their US naturalization.

        The denaturalization process takes place in federal court. In the event that the citizenship is revoked, the defendant will have to leave the US. Sometimes, it is possible to appeal this decision.

        Contact us today and explore our FAQ section to gain clarity on your journey to US citizenship. Contact Us

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          What Information Will I Have to Disclose in My Naturalization Application?

          All of the information provided in your application must be detailed and accurate. For example, changes to appearance (e.g. dyed hair) must be recorded. The subjects that will be covered are:

          • Personal details – such as name, date of birth and social security number.
          • Physical attributes – including their hair color, eye color, height and weight.
          • Family history – information such as names and birthplaces of their parents.
          • Relationship history – individuals who are married, or who have children, must state this as part of the application. Previous marriages must also be recorded here.
          • Military service – questions relating to the time of service and the length of service if applicable
          • Immigration status – details of past visas or Green Card applications.
          • Trips abroad – details of travel and the purpose of travel such as business, personal etc.
          • Residential history – evidence of current residence and any past addresses in the US.
          • Employment and education history – information on schooling and training including qualifications relating to the English language must also be included. Plus all details of current or previous employment.
          • Income tax obligations – details of income tax payments including previous tax returns.
          • Personal ethics  – USCIS will primarily investigate the applicant’s morality in the five years prior to their application, but previous years will also be taken into account.
          • Affiliations and memberships – applicants who are part of subversive groups will not be able to complete the naturalization process.If the group does not violate the Constitution, it does not harm the application to make reference to membership.
          • Legal issues  – this includes criminal convictions, court appearances and arrests.

          What are the Penalties for Lying During the Citizenship Application Process?

          There are many possible consequences of lying to an immigration officer during the US naturalization process, and all of them pose serious risk to the applicant’s right to reside in the US. Some possible consequences of a false application are: criminal charges, denied or revoked citizenship and deportation.

          Can a Green Card Holder Apply for Citizenship Before 5 Years?

          The majority of Green Card holders must wait 5 years before applying for US citizenship. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as:

          • Refugees – All of the time spent in the US by a refugee counts towards the minimum five year period. This means that even if a refugee gets a Green Card after one year, their first year in the US represents their first qualifying year for citizenship.
          • Asylees are only required to wait four years after getting US residence to apply for citizenship.
          • Spouses of US citizens – Anyone who is married to a US citizen, and has been living with them, only has to wait three years before applying for naturalization.

          Military members (including ex-members), or spouses of military members who died in service – Military members who have served for at least a year can pursue Peacetime Naturalization, which has a waiting time of one year, as opposed to five years. If a military member joins the forces at a time of war, they can apply for citizenship after just one day of service.

          How Can IAS Help?

          The US naturalization process is not straightforward. It requires applicants to have an understanding of the language and culture of the US, to be prepared to give evidence of their life in the US (e.g., relationships and employment), and to offer transparent responses.

          Most people find that they would benefit from help with the application, as it is better to invest time now, than to make an error and be rejected by USCIS. In this scenario, the applicant risks having their Green Card cancelled, and being deported from the US.

          If this applies to you, get in touch with IAS on +1 844 290 6312 and our immigration attorneys will assist you, drawing on their expertise in the US citizenship process.

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