You can become a citizen of the United States either by birth or through naturalization. If you were born in the US, you become a US citizen automatically. You also can claim citizenship if you were born to US citizen parents, depending on meeting certain conditions. The process through which a person not born in the US becomes a citizen voluntarily is called naturalization. To get naturalized, you should file form N-400, Application for Naturalization with the USCIS.
Applying for US Citizenship:
To apply for citizenship, you should file form N 400 with the USCIS. There are some eligibility requirements that you have to meet before you apply for citizenship. You should be a permanent resident (green card holder) of the US for at least five years or three years if you are married to a US citizen and you should be living with the US citizen spouse for the past three years.
There are other requirements too. You should be 18 years old or above. In addition to these, you have to satisfy the continuous residence and physical residence requirement. A prolonged absence from the U.S. will break the continuous residence requirement in the U.S. for naturalization purposes, although it may not affect your return to the U.S. as a permanent resident. Before you apply for citizenship, you should have resided in your current state for at least 3 months. It is the state where you are applying for citizenship.
Absence from the U.S. of less than six months will not break the continuity of residence in the U.S. for citizenship purposes but absence for a period of six months or more breaks the continuity of residence. However, if the break is between six months and one year, it can be excused if a reasonable explanation can be provided for the absence (e.g. overseas employment).
If the break is for over one year, the continuity of residence can be preserved and the break excused, if necessary steps are taken before the expiration of a year abroad to preserve the residence and if the applicant meets certain qualifications. You should also be able to read, write, and speak basic English and have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government (also known as civics). However, some have different English and civics requirements because of their age or disability.
You should not have broken any US immigration laws and should not have been ordered to leave the US. You should also prove at least 5 years of good moral character, immediately preceding your application for naturalization. You should also be prepared to take an oath of allegiance to the United States to become a citizen of the United States.
The submission fee for the citizenship application is $595.00. Additionally, a biometric fee of $85 is required. However, applicants 75 years of age and above are exempted from the bio metric fee. You can pay through one check or money order for $680 for both the submission and biometric fees. If you are filing under the military provisions, you need not pay the filing fee.
Naturalization is the process through which immigrants become citizens of the United States. To apply for naturalization, you should file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization with the USCIS.
Citizenship Application Form N – 400:
The citizenship application form, N – 400 has 14 parts, out of which applicants are required to fill 10. In the 11th section, you have to sign and date the application. You will be required to fill part 12 if someone else is preparing the application on your behalf. Part 13 and 14 will have to be filled at the time of your interview. So normally, you have to fill ten sections in the application.
The initial section is about your legal name. It is the name as it appears on your birth certificate unless it has been changed through marriage or court order. You can also opt for a name change while filing the citizenship application. But it will become effective only when a court naturalizes you. The next section is about your eligibility as a permanent resident. Other sections solicit information related to your date of birth, social security number and details about your green card. Additional information like the country of nationality and marital status are also asked in this section.
You will have to enter your contact information in section 4. In the following section, you need to enter details of the addresses you lived at during the past five years (including your stay overseas) and also give details of your employment. If you were a student, you need to list the schools where you studied during the last five years. Part 7 of your application is about all the trips you took outside the US in the last five years. This is followed by the marital status section. You will have to give information regarding your marital status and list all your prior marriages (divorced, annulled) and marital details of your spouse(s), if applicable. You should list details of your children, if any, in part 9 of the application.
Section 10 has important questions regarding your moral conduct. The citizenship application form has several questions about the applicant’s criminal history, if any. You have to be transparent and mention all offenses that you committed including any that has been removed from your record and any such incident which happened before your 18th birthday. If you do not mention about these offenses and the USCIS comes to know about it, your application may be rejected (even if the original offense was not a crime for which your case should be denied).
There are additional requirements to come out successful in the US citizenship process. You must be able to read, write, and speak basic English and also have basic knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics). But certain applicants, because of their age or disability have different English and civics requirements.
Certain supporting documents have to be sent along with your application. Documents that are in a foreign language have to be accompanied by a full English language translation, when submitted to USCIS. The translator should certify the translation as complete and accurate, and also submit a certification that he/she is competent enough to translate from the foreign language into English.
The submission fee for the citizenship application form is $595.00. Additionally, a biometric fee of $85.00 is needed. You may submit one check or money order for $680 for both the application and biometric fees. However, all naturalization applicants filing under the military provisions do not require a filing fee.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the INS) is the government agency that manages the entire immigration process in the United States.
While applying for a visa or green card, immigration forms are to be filed either at the American Consulate or with the USCIS (formerly the INS) if the applicant is in the US. These applications/petitions are available on the USCIS website and also there are many private players in this field who have these forms available on their website and charge a fee for assisting applicants in filling and filing the forms. The help of lawyers is at times sought to fill the immigration forms that can be sophisticated at times. The USCIS (formerly the INS) is the authority that processes these applications/petitions.
The INS Application Process:
After you send the completed application to the USCIS (formerly the INS) along with the appropriate fee and supporting documents, you will receive an Application Receipt Notice that has a 13-character Application Receipt number. It would take around 30 days to receive this notification. The 13-character number generally starts with EAC, WAC, LIN, or SRC. This number is the proof that the USCIS has received the application/petition and that it is being processed. You can check the status of your application using this number while the application is pending.
If you received the receipt number and want to check the status of your case, you may visit the USCIS’s website, http://www.uscis.gov and select the link entitled “Case Status Online.” You have to enter the application receipt number. Whereas, if you do not have a receipt number, you can find out how long USCIS takes to process the applications by clicking “Processing Times” that is listed on the USCIS “Case Status Online” page. Processing times are categorized according to the type of application you filed and the location of the USCIS Application Service Center (ASC) where your application was filed. If you do not receive any notification from the USCIS (formerly the INS) even after thirty days of having submitted your application, you can contact them at their toll-free telephone line and talk to their customer service representatives who will provide you with the necessary guidance.
Applicants and their representatives (such as lawyers, charitable groups, or corporations) who are in need of regular access to information about their multiple cases can create an account to get this information easily. The services provided by USCIS (formerly the INS) to both account types are similar except for the fact that applicants’ representatives can enter their own internal office tracking number with each receipt number while dealing with multiple cases.
Additionally, a new program provides the facility where you can receive a text message notification to your US mobile phone number when a case status update happens. Applicants and their representatives can use this facility to receive this text message notification. However, Standard Messaging Rates or other charges related to these notifications may apply for such text messages. Applicants and their representatives can also receive automatic case status updates through e-mail. As the processing time for applications differ, these option are handy to applicants.