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American residents can go through a process to learn how to get US citizenship and thus become American citizens with the benefits that come with it.

Our NJ immigration lawyers at Curbelo Law have over 10 years of experience in immigration processes to apply for permanent residence and then be able to obtain an American citizenship. Call today and we will take care of your case. 

How to get US citizenship in 2023

To obtain American citizenship it is necessary to have obtained a Green Card. This can be obtained through various legal procedures. The most common are usually adjustment of status in the United States and consular processing.

Another way to obtain the Green Card is by applying for political asylum in the United States.

Once you obtain permanent residence in the United States (holder of a Green Card), you can become an American citizen in two ways:

  • By naturalization. Process in which a lawful permanent resident meets all the requirements established by the United States Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
  • By adquisition. Process in which citizenship is obtained through US parents at or after birth. But before turning 18 years of age.
requirements to become a us citizen

The duration of the process to obtain American citizenship will depend on the situation in which you find yourself. Having an immigration lawyer by yout side for this type of process is essential. 

Requirements For American Citizenship

To obtain citizenship, you must meet a series of requirements:

  • Being at least 18 years old when you apply. 
  • Have had a Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) for at least 5 years, or for at least 3 years if you’re filing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen.
  • Able to speak, write and read basic english. Although there are exceptions if:
    • Being 55 years of age or older and have been a lawful permanent resident for at least 15 years.
    • You are 50 years old and a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years.
    • You have a physical or mental disability that prevents you from meeting the established requirements.
  • Must have good moral character.
  • Possess a basic knowledge of US and government laws. Although it also has its exceptions.

Additionally, you must meet other requirements for both physical presence and continuous residence.

  • Physical presence in the US. Applicants will need to show that they have been:
    • Physically in the United States for 30 months during the 5-year period prior to submitting the application.
    • Physically in the United States for 18 months during the 3-year period before filing the application if you are the spouse of a US citizen.
K-1 fiancé(e) visa

On our website we have written detailed articles about the different types of US visas. At this point, you may be interested in reviewing our article dedicated to the Fiancé(e) K-1 visa .

  • Continuous residence in the US. Applicants will need to demonstrate that they have:
    • Continuously resided in the US for at least 5 years prior to submitting an application.
    • Continuously resided in the US for at least 3 years prior to filing an application for spouses of US citizens.

Please note that to obtain permanent residence through marriage you will need a positive result on the marriage based Green Card interview questions.

Absences of one year or more interrupt the process to obtain American citizenship. Unless the applicant proves otherwise.  

Naturalization Process

The naturalization process includes the following requirements to follow:

  • You must determine if you are already a US citizen or eligible to be one.
  • Complete and submit Form N-400.
  • Make a one-time payment for Form N-400.
    • It must include the payment of biometric data (photograph, fingerprints and signature).
  • Go to the appointment for the corresponding biometric data.
  • Complete the naturalization test at the interview.
  • Wait for the USCIS decision on Form N-400.
  • Complete the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States.
  • Know your rights and responsibilities as an American citizen.

This naturalization process usually takes about a year from the time you first submit the application (Form N-400). Depending on your case, the process to obtain American citizenship can be more extensive. 

Exceptions To Naturalization Requirements

There are certain exceptions that apply when an American resident tries to become an American citizen:

English Language

Although basic English proficiency is required, some applicants will be exempt as long as:

  • At the time of applying for naturalization, the applicant is 50 years of age or older.
    • Applicant must be a lawful permanent resident of the US for at least 20 years.
  • At the time of applying for naturalization, the applicant is 55 years of age or older.
    • Applicant must be a lawful permanent resident of the US for at least 15 years.

Even if you are exempt from proving your English language requirement, you will still need to take the civics test.

Note that:

  • You can take the civics test in the language you are fluent in. It can be your native language. 
  • If you are taking the civics test in your native language, you will need a qualified interpreter for your interview.
  • The interpreter must speak both English and your native language fluently. 
  • If you are 65 years of age or older and are applying for naturalization as a 20-year lawful permanent resident, you will have special consideration.

Medical Disabilities

If you have a medical disability to complete the English test or even civics, you can be exempted from both tests. 

To request this exemption, you must submit Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions. This form will be completed by the doctor, psychologist or certified professional.

Continuous Residence

The exceptions in this type of case are available for:

  • U.S. government employees including members of the U.S. Armed Forces. 
  • Members of the International Public Organization.
  • US government contractors. 
  • Members of the organization designated by the International Immunity Law.
  • Recognized American Institutions. 

You must submit Form N-470, Application to Preserve Permanent Residence for Naturalization Purposes to preserve continuous residence if you do work abroad.

how to get a job in the united states while being illegal

In our dedicated section you can find information on how to get a job in the United States being illegal and the PERM labor certification steps.


Disability Accommodations or modifications

Applicants with physical or mental problems may have certain modifications for those applying for naturalization. This can be witnessed in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Exceptions To The Oath Of Allegiance

The law allows some modifications to the oath of allegiance under certain circumstances. You can obtain this type of information at the following links to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

Keep in mind that immigration laws can be complex and cannot be broken or changed by anyone. However, there are certain exceptions in which there may be minor modifications in them.

Knowing all these types of details can be impossible, so the best recommendation we can give you is to make sure that you get the guidance of an experienced immigration lawyer to help you throughout this process. 

How Long Does It Take To Process The American Citizenship?

how long does it take to obtain american citizenship

The process to obtain American citizenship usually takes approximately 5 to 6 months. Please note that to apply for American citizenship, you must first pass the naturalization test.

Taking The U. S. Naturalization Test

USCIS will provide study materials to help you with your test, this includes: 

You must pass the test in order to be eligible for American citizenship. According to the age you have and your years as a permanent resident, there will be exceptions for this.

Please note that applicants may not pass these tests, so it is advisable to have an immigration attorney assist you in this process. If you fail, you will be able to reapply for the test.

What To Expect At The Citizenship Ceremony?

The naturalization ceremony is the last step in the naturalization process. You will need to be sworn in to complete the process to become an American citizen. 

You should bear in mind that there are two types of ceremonies:

  • Administrative ceremony. USCIS will administer the Oath of Allegiance.
  • Judicial ceremony. The court will administer the Oath of Allegiance. 

Regardless of the type of ceremony, you will have to follow these steps:

1# Receive A Notification To take The Oath Of Allegiance

You may take the naturalization ceremony on the same day as the interview. If a ceremony does not take place on the same day, a notification will be sent to you through Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, detailing the date, time and place of the naturalization ceremony.

2# Ceremony Registration 

Once you arrive at the ceremony, you will need to register with USCIS. A USCIS officer in charge will review your responses on Form N-445. You will need to complete these before arriving at the ceremony.

3# Return The Green Card

When you registered for the naturalization ceremony, you will need to return your Green Card (Form I-551) to USCIS. You will no longer need the Green Card as you will receive a Certificate of Citizenship after submitting your Oath of Allegiance.

4# Take The Pledge Of Allegiance

You cannot become an American citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance. You will receive your Certificate of Naturalization after taking the Oath. 

5# Receive Your Certificate Of Naturalization

You should carefully verify the Certification of Naturalization and notify USCIS of any errors ocurred at the ceremony. If you lose the Certificate of Naturalization, you must request a replacement using Form N-565, Application for Replacement of Naturalization / Citizenship Document.

Benefits And Obligations Of American Citizenship

obtain citizenship in the united states

By obtaining the status of American citizen, you immediately obtain all the benefits of citizenship, being able to:

Obtaining citizenship also implies meeting the following obligations:

  • If you are a male between the ages of 18 and 25, you will need to register with the Selective Service System.
  • You will have to serve the country if necessary.
  • You have to obey all American laws.
  • Also renounce the allegiance of any other nation if necessary.
  • You will have to declare all taxes on time.

Dual Nationality

You can have dual citizenship or dual citizenship, which means that you are a US citizen and at the same time a citizen from another country. The US does not require people to choose between one nationality or another.

If you are a US citizen and have dual citizenship, you must use a US passport to enter and leave the US. All dual citizens are required to obey the laws of both countries and file their taxes. If you are a member of The Draft, you should contact the embassy of that country to find out about military obligations.

You can renounce American citizenship if:

  • You are a citizen of another country.
  • You do it voluntarily.

Naturalization Through Military Service

Members of the United States Armed Forces can apply for American citizenship with a much more expedited process, even if they are in another country.

You may be interested in reviewing our article on military parole in place program to benefit military families.

Naturalization Certificate

The naturalization certificate is the proof that proves to the US authorities that you are an American citizen. USCIS recommends that you keep this document in a safe place to prevent it from being lost or stolen. 

  • To request an original certificate of American citizenship: You must complete Form N-600 and send it to the address indicated in the document.
  • If you lose your naturalization certificate: You must complete Form N-565 and send it to the address indicated in the document instructions. You will receive a copy, each copy will have its cost and the process may take approximately one year. 

How Can You Tell If A Person Is A US Citizen?

A person can know if someone is a US citizen if they have:

  • US passport.
  • Certificate of naturalization.
  • U.S. birth certificate.
  • Certificate of Report of Birth.
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad.

All these documents are valid to prove that you are an American citizen. Generally, the US passport is the most recognized to prove your citizenship. 

Process To Obtain American Citizenship By Marriage

It is possible to obtain American citizenship through marriage. For this, the American citizen spouse will have to make a family petition.

You may become eligible for naturalization by marriage as long as:

  • You have been a permanent resident of the United States for at least 3 years.
  • You have been living in marriage with your US spouse for 3 years.
  • Meet all the requirements for naturalization eligibility. 

Also, you must meet certain general requirements to be eligible for naturalization by marriage. These requirements include:

  • To be 18 years old or more.
  • Have continuously resided in the US for at least 18 months during the 3-year period.
  • You can read, speak and write perfectly in English.
  • Have resided in the district or state where USCIS has jurisdiction.
  • Must have good moral character.
how to legally enter the united states

You should bear in mind that the spouse must be in the US in person and have met the requirements to enter legally the United States in possession of a Green Card at the time of applying for the naturalization test.

Obtaining American Citizenship Through Your Parents

You can become an American citizen through your parents. For this you have to:

  • Be a biological, legitimate or adoptive child of an American citizen or;
  • Be the child of an American gestational mother who is legally recognized as your mother. 

There are only two ways to obtain citizenship for US parents, at birth or after birth. In either case, you must always apply for American citizenship before reaching the age of 18.

A person born outside the US can become a US citizen through their parents or a US parent. The law requires that at least one of the parents is a US citizen and hasresided in the US for a period of time established for this process.

Children Of American Citizens Born Outside The United States

All those children born outside the United States and who are currently living within the country, can immediately become United States citizens as long as they meet all the conditions:

  • The child is under 18 years of age.
  • One of the child’s parents is a US citizen by naturalization or birth.
  • The child resides in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the United States parent. 
  • The child is the holder of a Green Card.

Children Of US Citizens Living Outside The United States

Children living abroad may become eligible for naturalization if they meet the following requirements: 

  • The child is admissible for naturalization.
  • At least one of the child’s parents must be a US citizen. Regardless of whether it is by naturalization or birth.
  • The child must be under 18 years of age.
  • The child resides outside of the United States in the legal and physical custody of a United States citizen.
  • The father meets all the necessary requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Process To Obtain American Citizenship

questions about american citizenship

In the process to obtain American citizenship you can be surrounded by a sea of ​​doubts. It is normal and we receive hundreds of related questions. Here we have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions and answers. Remember that this should be taken as general information and never as an attorney-client relationship. For personalized advice, contact our team of US immigration law professionals.

When Can I Retake The Naturalization Test If I Fail?

Unless you are eligible for an exception to the English and civics test requirements, you will have two opportunities to pass and meet the naturalization requirements.

If you fail the test (English or civics) you will have to do a new interview 60 or 90 days after your initial interview.

How Many Times Can I Apply For Naturalization?

There is no limit to applying for naturalization, so you can apply for it as many times as you want.

Do I Need To Bring Original Documents To The Naturalization Interview?

Yes. The instructions for Form N-400 indicate the original documents to bring.

You should also bring certified copies of the documents to the initial application interview. This will facilitate your review by USCIS officers.

Can I Change My Name While My Naturalization Application Is Pending?

You can legally change your name after you have filed the naturalization application with USCIS. However, you must notify USCIS of the name change immediately.

You will need to provide the legal documents confirming your name change. Please note that if you do not notify the name change in time, your request may be denied.

Do I Have To Be In The US When I Apply? 

Applicants do not necessarily have to be present in the US when submitting Form N-400. For this they will have to check the manual M-476 for applications abroad.

Will I Be Asked 100 Questions During The Naturalization Interview?

Although there are 100 civics questions available on the naturalization test, the applicant will not be asked all of the questions. Typically, you will be asked up to 10 questions from the 100-question list.

You must answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly to pass the civics test.

How Much Does The Naturalization Process Cost For American Citizenship?

The fee for a naturalization application with Form N-400 is $ 640 plus the cost of the biometric service, which costs $ 85. This is an approximate total cost of $ 725.

This procedure can reach $ 1,170 in some cases. You can pay it online, by personal check, money order, cashier’s check, or credit card using Form G-1450. 

Please note that all check payments must be made payable to the US Department of Homeland Security.

What To Do If USCIS Rejects Your Application For American Citizenship?

In case USCIS has rejected your application, it may be because of an error in the form. USCIS will notify you in detail of the reasons for the denial.

You can appeal by filing Form N-336. Remember to do it within 30 days of receiving the denial letter. 

In our section dedicated to how to appeal an immigration decision can find more information about it.

Do I Need A Lawyer To Apply For American Citizenship?

You will not necessarily need an attorney, applicants can submit Form N-400 online themselves. However, keep in mind that having the help and assistance of an immigration attorney will be beneficial to you. The process is long and complex, and an attorney experienced in citizenship processes like Carolina T. Curbelo can save you from a lot of headaches.

Immigration Lawyers To Obtain American Citizenship

Our attorneys have more than 10 years of experience in this type of process so you will be in the best hands to obtain your US citizenship in a legal and professional manner.

Call the New Jersey law firm of Curbelo Law today and get a private consultation regarding your case, we will assess your situation and offer you the best possible guidelines.