What is Naturalization?

The naturalization process is the means by which a foreign national may acquire U.S. citizenship. In the United States, Congress has the constitutional authority to establish a uniform rule for naturalization. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has the power within the United States to grant citizenship through the naturalization process.

The Naturalization Process

The first step in the naturalization process is to determine whether you are already an American citizen. If you were born in one of the states or territories of the United States, even if your parents were illegally in the country, you have American citizenship. Furthermore, if either one of your parents is an American citizen living anywhere in the world, you have the right to be an American citizen.

If you are not a citizen, you must next determine your eligibility for citizenship. The most important qualifications—you must be at least 18 years of age, and you must have lived consecutively in the United States for a minimum period of time. You must also have resided in the United States for a total of at least five years (only three if you are married to an American citizen).

If you determine that you are eligible, you must complete, sign and file immigration form N-400, and attach two passport style photos. There are also fees that are due with the application for citizenship. You may also file a form N-648, seeking an exception from the English or civics requirement for naturalization.

As a part of the process, you will have to be fingerprinted, and will be subjected to a background check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Once those steps have been completed, the USCIS will set up an interview to complete the naturalization process. During the interview process, you may be asked questions about your form N-400, and you will also be required to take the English and civics tests. Typically, you will get the results of those exams on the same day you take the tests, but there may be reasons why the USCIS officer will continue your case.

If you fail the English or civics tests, you can schedule another interview within 60-90 days. However, if you fail the English or civics test again, your application for citizenship will be denied.

If you have completed the interview (your case has not been continued), you will then receive a written notice of the USCIS decision. If your application is denied, you may have the right to appeal the decision.

If your application is approved, you will receive a notice that you must take the oath of allegiance to the United States. In many instances, you can do this the same day of your interview. Once you take the oath of allegiance, you will be issued your certificate of naturalization.

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