Naturalization as a U.S. Citizen: Path to American Citizenship
Naturalization is the process by which immigrants become U.S. citizens, granting them essentially the same rights and privileges as those born in the United States. The path to naturalization involves meeting specific requirements, navigating an application process, and ultimately taking an Oath of Allegiance.
To be eligible to apply for naturalization, applicants typically must be at least 18 years old, be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), and have resided continuously in the U.S. for either three (3) years if married to a U.S. citizen or five (5) years otherwise. Additional requirements include demonstrating good moral character, proficiency in English, and knowledge of U.S. government and history.
Exceptions may exist based upon age, amount of time as a permanent resident, and military service.
Family members may naturalize as derivatives to the applicant in certain cases.
The naturalization application, Form N-400, is submitted with the necessary required evidence to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After receiving the application, USCIS schedules a biometrics appointment for fingerprinting. Subsequently, applicants attend an interview where they generally must demonstrate their English language skills and knowledge of U.S. civics by passing a civics exam. If approved, successful naturalization applicants receive a notice to attend the Oath of Allegiance ceremony.
Reasons to Pursue Naturalization
Individuals pursue naturalization for various reasons, including a desire to fully participate in civic life, enhance career opportunities, and solidify their ties to the United States. Many also seek the emotional and symbolic significance of officially becoming American citizens.
Becoming a U.S. citizen carries numerous benefits, including the right to vote in federal elections, eligibility for certain government jobs, access to federal benefits, and the ability to petition for family members to immigrate to the U.S.
The following are common reasons for a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) to apply for naturalization as a U.S. citizen:
- Criminal issues can still render LPRs deportable
- Living abroad can result in abandonment of permanent resident status
- A US passport often opens up visa-free travel to many destinations
- LPRs are required to update USCIS of all address changes
- LPRs cannot vote in a US election, but essentially have all of the responsibilities of US citizenship
The naturalization process concludes with the Oath of Allegiance ceremony. During this ceremony, applicants pledge allegiance to the United States, affirming their commitment to its laws and principles. The ceremony marks the formal acquisition of U.S. citizenship.
Embarking on the naturalization journey is a significant and rewarding step towards realizing the American dream. Understanding the requirements, process, and benefits is crucial for those seeking to become proud U.S. citizens.
The above is informational and not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with an experienced business immigration attorney on your specific facts and circumstances before proceeding with any U.S. immigration strategy.