7 Steps to Become an American Citizen

Gaining U.S. citizenship can afford many opportunities for a resident of the United States. Among these are an entrance to a U.S. passport, the right to vote in public elections, and protection from deportation. However, becoming an American citizen requires a few steps, from establishing your eligibility to filing, fingerprinting, attending an interview, passing tests of your knowledge of English and U.S. civics, and attending an oath ceremony.

Step 1: Find Out if You Are Eligible.

The primary question is whether you have a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence). With very few limitations, you must obtain a green card before you become eligible to apply for citizenship. So, if you haven't yet approached this point, learn about your eligibility by reading "Eligibility for a U.S. Green Card."

As a legitimate permanent resident, you must meet additional requirements to be eligible for U.S. citizenship. This consideration includes the length of time you've spent in the U.S. as a green card holder, your good moral character, your ability to pass a test in English, U.S. history and government, and more. To check on whether you are eligible.

Step 2: Overcome Limitations to Your Ineligibility:

You may now determine that you are not eligible to become a citizen. Perhaps you can't show good moral character because you committed a minor crime (though not a major enough one to make you deportable). Or you broke the continuity of your residence by spending too long outside the United States. It may be that merely waiting longer will make you eligible for citizenship, or you may require taking other steps to make you suitable. Consult an immigration attorney for a complete analysis.

Step 3: File USCIS Form N-400

Once you have discovered your eligibility, you must file some paperwork with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The N-400 is the form to initiate the process. As of 2015, the application for naturalization cost $595, plus an $85 biometrics fee. You will need to attach a copy of your green card.

Once your application has been accepted, you will be mailed a fingerprint and biometrics date.

Step 4: Get Fingerprinted

A background check will be required to process your application. You will be given a date and address to a local office where you will be fingerprinted. Your fingerprints will be run through the FBI for a background check.

Step 5: Attend a Citizenship Interview

After your fingerprinting, you should receive an appointment date and address for an interview with a UCSIC officer. During this interview, the officer will review your N-400 and confirm your answers to all the questions. The officer will also test your awareness of English and U.S. civics.

Step 6: Attend the Oath Ceremony

Congratulations if you are signed at (or soon after) your interview, but you still need to become a citizen. You will be called in for a massive public ceremony, at which you and others will be given the oath, swearing commitment to the United States. Then, you will be given a naturalization certificate showing you are a U.S. citizen.

Step 7: Do You Qualify?

You only need to hire a lawyer to apply for U.S. citizenship if you have some dangerous items in your background. 

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