Home is where your heart is. If you’ve been a lawful permanent resident of the United States for a few years, then you’ve probably built a life around friends, family, a spouse, and your work here. Now comes your opportunity to decide if it’s time to fully embrace the nation that has become your home. It’s a choice you shouldn’t make lightly, but if you’re ready, we can help you become a U.S. citizen.
In This Article
- Who Can Become a U.S. Citizen?
- The Steps to Take Toward U.S. Citizenship
- Benefits When You Become a U.S. Citizen
Let Us Help You Become a U.S. Citizen
Applying for U.S. naturalization is a worthwhile endeavor, which is even more reason not to do it on your own. Let us help. Our immigration attorneys know this is important to you and will lead the way to ensure that your interaction with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) goes smoothly. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your free case assessment. If you prefer to speak with us in Spanish, call 720-359-2442.
Who Can Become a U.S. Citizen?
If you’re a green card holder who has been in this country for a few years, you might be wondering if U.S. citizenship is an option.
Even if you’re not sure you’re ready or will ever try to become a citizen, it’s nice to know for certain whether you’re eligible if you wish to pursue it down the road.
According to the guidelines set forth in 8 U.S.C. ss 1427, you are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship if you meet any of the following qualifications:
- You have held a green card for 5 years
- You are married to a U.S. citizen and have held a green card for 3 years
- You’re a battered spouse of a U.S. citizen, even if divorced or separated
- You’ve been physically present in the U.S. for at least half the time of your residence
- You’ve been continuously present with no 6-month or longer stays abroad
- You have lived at your current residence at least 3 months before applying for citizenship
- You are at least 18 years of age on the day you file
- You have demonstrated good moral character, abiding by U.S. laws
- You can speak, read, and write in basic English
- You can pass a brief oral test about U.S. history and government
- You are willing to affirm loyalty to the U.S. and serve in the military if called
Being eligible to apply for naturalization does not mean you have to. As a permanent green card holder, you already enjoy the ability to live, work, and travel in this country if you abide by the law and renew your green card every 10 years.
There are many advantages to becoming a U.S. citizen, from participating in elections to financial benefits. We’ll delve into many of these perks later in the article, but let’s get right to what you need to do to fulfill your dreams of becoming a U.S. citizen.
The Steps to Take Toward U.S. Citizenship
If you’re a lawful green card holder who has abided by the law, your path to naturalization should be straightforward. That does not mean the path will be short. The entire process could take between 12 and 15 months. Knowing and following each step of the process should keep your petition clear of unnecessary snags.
Step 1: Make Sure You’re Eligible
If you meet the requirements listed in the section above, you’re qualified to apply for naturalization.
Step 2: Complete the Form N-400
- Download and complete the official Application for Naturalization. It is crucial that you answer every question that applies to you and that you write “N/A” in the lines to the questions that do not apply. Leave no part blank. You will be expected to provide accurate and truthful information about:
- current and past residences
- marriage history
- your own parents
- any time spent outside of the U.S.
- and other personal questions
Step 3: Obtain 2 Color Photographs
These photos should be passport-sized, identical, show your full face, and must be taken within 30 days of filing your N-400.
The photos should show your face against a white background, with no head coverings unless for religious reasons.
Step 4: Photocopy Documents
The USCIS needs proof that you are applying as a lawful permanent resident. Make clear, accurate photocopies of both the front and back of your green card and any other documents required.
If any forms are not in English, provide translated versions along with photocopies of the original forms.
If you are waiting for a replacement green card, provide a photocopy of your receipt showing you have lost the original and have already paid for a new one. Hold on to all original documents as you must bring those to your naturalization interview.
Step 5: Send Your Package
Place your completed N-400, color photographs, photocopied documents, and a check or money order for $725 in a portrait-sized envelope with an expandable pocket and permanent adhesive strip. Make sure it is addressed to the correct service center for where you live.
Step 6: Provide Your Fingerprints
Once the service center has received your application package, it will need to run a criminal background check on you.
The USCIS will contact you in writing and arrange a time and place to take your fingerprints. Bring that letter, your green card, and a secondary form of photo ID with you to the fingerprinting appointment.
Step 7: Sit for Naturalization Interview
You will be notified in writing of the time and place of your interview. We recommend arriving 30 minutes before the scheduled time. You can reschedule if you absolutely must.
What to Bring to Your Naturalization Interview:
- your green card
- a state-issued ID
- your passport (even if it has expired)
- any U.S. re-entry permits you might have
The agent who interviews you will ask questions from the information provided in your original N-400 form. You’ll be asked about your character and values and whether you’re willing to pledge an oath of allegiance to the United States.
Step 8: Take Your Test
The test should happen during your naturalization interview. You will take a brief oral exam on your ability to read, write, and speak English as well as your knowledge of U.S. history and government.
Step 9: Wait for a Decision
After you’ve attended your interview and taken the test on basic English and U.S. civics, the USCIS will notify you within 120 days of its decision. It will either grant your citizenship request, continue your case if a second interview or additional documents are needed, or deny your petition.
If you feel your application was denied unfairly, you can request a hearing with USCIS with a Form N-336.
Step 10: Take Your Oath
Once the USCIS has granted your naturalization request, you will be invited to attend an official oath ceremony. There, you will raise your right hand and take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America. After your oath, you will be provided with your Certificate of Naturalization, conferring your new and permanent status as a citizen of the United States.
Benefits When You Become a U.S. Citizen
As an American citizen, you’ll gain some responsibilities and many new and meaningful benefits. These perks are reason enough for every lawful permanent resident to consider naturalization.
The Right to Vote
As a green card holder, you only have legal residence status. As a citizen, you have a voice and a right to vote in local, state, and federal elections.
No Fear of Deportation
A green card allows you to live in the U.S. legally and permanently. But you’re still an “immigrant” and can be deported for committing a serious crime. There can also be an unnecessary stigma attached to immigrants in the U.S. court system. In other words, citizens tend to receive more favorable sentences and plea deals than immigrants.
Bring the Family
As a citizen, you gain the power to petition for your parents, siblings, and married adult children to come to the U.S. This petition extends to the spouses and children (age 21 and under) of those married children.
Since the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens receive higher priority, the wait time on petitions filed by U.S. citizens tends to be shorter than for those filed by green card holders. A green card holder may petition only for a spouse and their own unmarried children.
Hold a U.S. Passport
It is considered the most powerful passport in the world, granting any U.S. citizen who holds it access to more than 180 countries. This can save a world traveler a lot of time and money, while also allowing them to re-enter the United States without any restrictions.
A U.S. passport holder can also receive assistance from U.S. consulates and embassies abroad at a higher priority than green card holders.
Stay Abroad Much Longer
As a naturalized citizen, you’ll be free to travel abroad for longer than six months without being accused of “abandoning” your U.S. residence.
You can visit the country of your birth for as long as you wish and walk past the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers once you return with no legal ramifications.
Obtain Federal Benefits
Any government job, grant, scholarship, or benefit available to native U.S. citizens becomes available to you.
Your Young Children Become Citizens
Once you have taken your citizenship oath, any of your children under the age of 18 who came to the U.S. with you also become naturalized.
Of course, any children born in the U.S. become citizens automatically. But even if you give birth overseas, as a U.S. citizen, all you need to do is report the birth to a U.S. consulate or embassy and that child is made a U.S. citizen.
Run for Office
Not only do you get the right to vote, but as a citizen, you can have an even bigger voice by running for public office.
If you’re unhappy with the policies of local, state, or even national officeholders, you can seek an elected office to change those policies to make this country an even better place to live.
If you and your spouse are U.S. citizens, you have the benefit of being able to pass or bequeath real estate to each other without paying property taxes.
Once you’ve taken the oath, you’ll no longer fear the Department of Homeland Security or agencies like Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
As a citizen, your right to work, live, and prosper in the United States is guaranteed and cannot be taken away.
United States citizenship also comes with certain responsibilities, primarily that you obey laws, pay your taxes, and, if you’re male, to serve your country if called upon. Those are small prices to pay considering the generous perks and conveniences naturalization offers.
The Decision to Become a U.S. Citizen is Yours
Many immigrants living in the U.S. who have a green card simply do not wish to stop being citizens of their home country. Others wouldn’t mind becoming U.S. citizens but are otherwise content and in no hurry to do so. Still, more might harbor a deep desire to naturalize but don’t want the hassle, scrutiny, or expense of dealing with the USCIS again.
Get Help from Colorado Immigration Attorneys
If you’re curious about gaining U.S. citizenship, then you should be equally interested in making sure the process goes smoothly. At Robinson and Henry, we have experienced immigration attorneys to help you decide if naturalization is the right choice for you. They will guide you along until the day you raise your hand to take the oath of allegiance. Call 303-688-0944 for your free case assessment. If you prefer to speak with us in Spanish, call 720-359-2442.