Unless you are a United States citizen by birth, you will need to obtain citizenship through a process known as naturalization. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world begin the naturalization process each year. According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency welcomed more than 7.4 million naturalized citizens over the last decade. Get the facts on beginning your own path to U.S. citizenship.
Understanding the Naturalization Process
Generally, any person over the age of 18 seeking to become a U.S. citizen will have to apply for naturalization by filing an Application for Naturalization, Form N-400. In order to be eligible for naturalization, an individual will have to meet the following requirements:
Be at least 18 years of age
Have held a green card for at least five years
Be a person of good moral character
Speak English and be able to pass an English test
Pass a U.S. government and history (civics) test
Have lived in the same state for at least three months before filing
Have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the last five years of being a green card holder
In addition to the requirements listed above, you may also seek citizenship if:
You are a U.S. citizen living outside of the country and have a child born outside the U.S.
You have a green card and have been living in a marital union with a U.S. citizen for at least three years and meet all other requirements.
You are serving or have served in the U.S. armed forces and meet the other requirements.
Visas: The Gateway to Citizenship
Visas are the gateway for any foreign national looking for visit, work, or live in the U.S. There are many different types of visas, and with ever-changing immigration laws, understanding which visa is right for you can be difficult. At Davis & Associates, we want to help you obtain the visa that best reflects your unique needs.
If you just want to visit the U.S. for vacation, it’s relatively simple to obtain a tourist visa. If you’d like to stay for a longer period of time, however, you may need assistance determining which type of visa you need. There are two main types of visas, including:
Family-based visas. If you are a citizen or lawful permanent resident, you can help certain family members obtain a family-based visa. Typically, spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21 receive priority over others.
Employment-based visas. If you are a foreign national looking to work in the United States, or you’re an employer seeking foreign talent, an employment-based visa will suit your needs.
Green Cards and Lawful Permanent Residency
A green card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, allows you to live and work permanently in the United States. While green card holders are not citizens and cannot vote, become an elected official, or travel with a U.S. passport, they may live and work in the country indefinitely. It’s a major first step on many immigrants’ path to full citizenship.
There are a few ways to obtain a green card. You can do so through employment, family sponsorship, as a victim of abuse, as a special immigrant, through registry, or through refugee or asylum status. Where you reside will determine which process you use to apply for a green card.
Adjustment of status with USCIS. If you are already present in the U.S., you can apply to adjust your current immigration status to a lawful permanent resident.
Consular processing. If you are outside the U.S., you can visit a U.S. consulate abroad to apply for a green card.
While a green card does not grant you the full rights of a U.S. citizen, you do enjoy certain benefits that other visa holders do not receive, including the following:
Apply for citizenship after five years
Sponsor certain relatives for visas or green cards
Travel in and out of the U.S. more easily
Spend less on college, university, or vocational school tuition
Renew your green card every 10 years
Make financial contributions to U.S. election campaigns
How to Apply for Naturalization
If you meet all of the eligibility requirements listed above, you may apply for naturalization. The naturalization process involves the following:
Prepare and submit form N-400, the application for naturalization.
Go to the biometrics appointment, if applicable.
Take the U.S. Naturalization Test and complete a personal interview.
Receive a decision from USCIS on your application for naturalization.
If granted, take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
Receive your Certificate of Naturalization.
Once you receive your Certificate of Naturalization, you will be granted the full rights and responsibilities of a United States citizen. These rights include the following:
Freedom to express yourself
Freedom to worship as you wish
Right to a prompt, fair trial by jury
Right to vote in elections for public officials
Right to apply for federal employment
Right to run for elected office
Freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”
Seeking U.S. Citizenship? Contact Us Today
At Davis & Associates, individuals beginning the path toward citizenship benefit from the compassionate support and informed guidance of our Texas citizenship attorneys. From our offices in Dallas and Houston, we serve clients throughout the country in their effort to become citizens.
Contact Davis & Associates at (214) 999-1942 to learn how we can help you.