There are a lot of steps and stages in the immigration process. Even if you had an immediate claim for a Green Card when entering the country, you are still going to have to wait to become a citizen. For that reason, some people will opt to stay a permanent resident and keep their Green Card. Other people want to become a citizen of the United States.
A lawful permanent resident can become a naturalized citizen through the naturalization process. When you become a citizen, it gives you the right to vote, and it makes it so that you can stay in the country almost regardless of the situation. Another reason to become a citizen is that it offers an expansion of the options available to you for family immigration.
To go through the naturalization process, you have to pass your background check. You then attend an interview, and you have to pass two tests that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administers.
The Process To Become A Citizen
Before going into the tests you have to pass, the steps in the process required to become a citizen include the following:
- Determine if you’re eligible. You must have had a green card for at least five years, be the spouse of a citizen for at least three, or have served in the United States military. You could also be eligible if you’re the child of a citizen.
- If you’re eligible, you complete form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
- Get two color photographs of yourself and photocopy your documents.
- You’ll send in your application package and your fee.
- Then, once your application is received, you’re contacted by USCIS, who will set up a time and place for you to have your fingerprints taken. That’s used for your criminal background check.
- The next step is to attend a naturalization interview. During this interview, you’re asked about your background and application, your character, and whether you’re willing to take an allegiance oath to the U.S.
- Next in the process is when you take your English and civics test, which we’ll talk about more below.
- After your interview, the USCIS gives you a form that will have your decision on it and information about your results. The outcome could be that your citizenship request is granted, your case could be continued, or your application could be denied.
- If you’re granted citizenship, you’re required to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and then you receive your Certificate of Naturalization, so you’re a U.S. citizen. You have to return your green card to USCIS when you go for your Oath ceremony.
What Is The U.S. Citizenship Test?
As part of your naturalization process, you have to pass a naturalization test that has two parts.
The first part of the test will assess your ability to read, write and speak English. The second part of your test will evaluate your knowledge of the history and government of the U.S.
Most people applying for naturalization have to take both parts of the exam, but there are some applicants who might be eligible for exemptions based on their time as a Green Card holder, their age, or certain medical conditions.
Everyone who’s an applicant has two chances to take their exam, and it’s usually completed on the same day they go through their interview for citizenship.
What To Expect On The English Component
The English exam includes three parts which are speaking, reading, and writing. The reading and writing tests are done digitally on a tablet. If you aren’t perfectly fluent in English, it’s okay. The test is basic in terms of grammar and vocabulary.
During the speaking test, an immigration officer asks you about your application and eligibility, and in doing so, they evaluate how well you can speak English and comprehend it. You don’t have to understand every word that’s part of your application.
For your reading test, you’re given the tablet. Sentences will appear on the screen, and the immigration officer is going to ask you to read them aloud. You can study the vocabulary words that are used on the reading test ahead of time.
The goal of this is to show that you understand what’s written.
The third part of your English test is the writing test. You’ll have to write one of three sentences correctly as they’re being read to you by the immigration officer.
The Civics Part Of The Test
To pass your civics test, you have to show that you have what’s considered a sufficient understanding and knowledge of the government and U.S. history by answering six of ten questions correctly. The questions are randomly chosen by the immigration officer.
They’re read to you, and then, once you’ve answered six correctly, they’ll stop asking you questions. You can phrase your answers however you prefer, as long as they’re correct.
You can find a list of the questions asked on the test provided by USCIS. There are 100 questions on the list they provide, and you can then study them. If you’re 65 or older, you only have to study 20 particular questions, which are marked on the list provided by USCIS.
Over half of the civics questions are about the government, and the rest are about history.
How complex the questions you’re asked and how rigorous the evaluation process is depends on your age and background, how long you’ve lived in the U.S., your education level, and other individual factors.
You can absolutely prepare for your naturalization test ahead of time by studying as soon as possible, watching and listening to study materials, and even reading children’s books.
If you pass your exams, you’re nearly finished with your process.
If you don’t pass, you can retake the entire exam again or the part you didn’t pass, but your questions will be different. Your retest will usually be scheduled 60 to 90 days from the date of your first appointment.
Finally, if you don’t pass on the second go-round, your application for naturalization is denied, and you can appeal that.