US citizenship requirements may seem fairly formidable for those who are planning to apply for immigration to the US from abroad. However, getting United States citizenship is fairly straightforward for people who already have a green card. Most US permanent residents become eligible to apply for US citizenship a few years after having gained permanent residency. Unlike the process of applying for a green card through employment, which can be a rather convoluted and time-consuming process, often requiring the services of an immigration lawyer, the US citizenship application process just requires filling out a form with some supporting documentation, and then waiting for the papers to get processed, the entire process typically taking six months or less. I should clarify that nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice, as I am not an immigration lawyer, but reflects what I know of people’s experiences in applying for US citizenship.
People who obtain US permanent residency through employment are eligible to apply for US citizenship five years after becoming permanent residents. For those who obtained permanent residency by marrying a US citizen, the duration for eligibility is only three years.
The first step in your US citizenship application process is obtaining and filling out the N400 citizenship form, which you can get online at uscis.gov or in print by writing to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) office. In the N-400 form, you will have to fill out your personal information including your recent employment history, overseas trips taken, places of residence, etc. You will have to submit this form with photocopies of the front and back of your green card, two passport style photos of yourself, and the application fee. The application fee for US citizenship as of the time of writing this article is $680, which includes the main fee and an additional sum for biometric processing. Make sure you closely follow the instructions for filling out the form. These instructions are available on the USCIS website, and list very specific requirements on how to fill out each line item. Not following these instructions precisely could lead to delays in processing your citizenship application.
Within a few days, your check will be cashed and you will receive an email and text notification that your application is being processed. In a few weeks, you will be asked to report to an office for fingerprinting. The FBI will then do a background check on you, and if everything turns out fine, you will be called in to take a US citizenship exam, in which your knowledge of basic civics and US government will be tested. You will also be tested on basic English speaking, reading and writing skills.
The civics test consists of 10 questions relating to US history, government and geography. These just need to be answered in short sentences. You have to answer at least 6 out of these 10 questions correctly to pass this part of the test. To make life easier for you, you can download a list of 100 citizenship questions along with their answers from the USCIS website. The questions you will be asked during the citizenship test will be from this list. Many of these questions are almost trivial (e.g., who is the president of the United States) but there are some that you may not know off the top of your head, so it is a good idea to study all these questions well. There is also an accompanying document on the USCIS website that gives you longer explanations of the answers to all these questions. While you don’t need to know this extra information to pass the test, it can be useful in helping you learn the answers, and in any case is interesting background information that any US citizen should know.
The English test is very simple, and anyone with even a basic command of English can pass it without any trouble. For applicants 65 years or older, who have been long-term permanent residents of the US, the test requirements are relaxed, and they only have to take some parts of it, for instance needing to know the answers to only 20 of the 100 questions.
Assuming you passed the US citizenship test, you will then have to take the citizenship oath. In some centers, you can take the oath the same day. In other cases, you will need to schedule your oath some days later. In either case, this is the last stage in the process, and you will then receive a certificate of naturalization, which you can then use to apply for a US passport. You are now a US citizen. Congratulations!