Understanding the Process of Becoming a Naturalized U.S. Citizen

by Raymond G. Lahoud, Esquire

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), 729,995 people became naturalized U.S. citizens during fiscal year 2015, and some 6.6 million have joined the ranks of U.S. citizens over the past decade. These numbers represent years of work on the part of foreign nationals who have demonstrated their commitment to participating in the fabric of American life.

Who is eligible?

The key requirements for naturalization are, in many ways, very straightforward. A person must be 18 years of age or older and a lawful permanent resident who’s been in the United States for at least five years (and physically present in the country for at least 30 months). However, other requirements come down to much more than numbers. A person must demonstrate good moral character, a command of the English language in all its forms and knowledge of U.S. history and how the government works. Whether a person meets these requirements is gauged during the application and interview processes.

Applying and interviewing

Form N-400 is the application for naturalization, which must be submitted to USCIS along with a variety of supporting documentation, including passport-style photographs. Anyone under the age of 75 must be fingerprinted as part of the background check process.

Once a person’s application is cleared, they must sit down for a formal interview with a USCIS officer. During the interview, there will be a series of questions related to Form N-400. This is also when the English and civics tests are administered. Assuming the interview goes well and you pass the test, your application will likely be approved, thus paving the way for the final step of the naturalization process: taking the oath of allegiance to the U.S.

A person cannot become a naturalized citizen without taking the oath, which declares that you understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and renounce your loyalty to your prior country of citizenship. The oath ceremony may be held on the day of the interview, but it’s more likely to be scheduled for a future date. While it’s a formal occasion, the atmosphere is often festive and celebratory, which is fitting given the difficulty of the naturalization process.

It’s important to note that, should your application be denied or held up during any stage of the process, it is possible to request a hearing or appeal a decision if you believe there’s been an error. An experienced naturalization attorney can help you understand your options.

The route to becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen can be time-consuming and complex, and it’s essential that all proper steps be taken to ensure the process runs smoothly. For help getting started, or to receive answers to your questions, consult a knowledgeable Pennsylvania citizenship and naturalization attorney at Baurkot & Baurkot today.