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The dream of many immigrants is to obtain American citizenship, but to do so, they must complete a long immigration process. The common path is to have obtained a Green Card and live in the United States for a few years. 

Still, there are several ways by which you can become a citizen of the United States. Below, you will learn what you have to do to obtain U. S. nationality and meet its requirements.

The Process To obtain U. S. Citizenship In 2024

Immigrants can obtain American citizenship through various means, but the process itself is not simple. This is because it is usual to have first become a lawful permanent resident.

There are several immigration processes through which you can carry out the adjustment of status or the consular process to obtain the Green Card. For example, through family petitions or employment sponsorship.

In any case, the basic steps of the process to obtain citizenship include:

1# Determine If You Are Already An American Citizen

requirements to become a us citizen

You can obtain U. S. citizenship by birth or through naturalization In two ways: 

  1. By birth, or 
  2. Through naturalization. 

Generally speaking, individuals are U. S. citizens from birth if they are born in the U. S. or abroad as children of U. S. citizens:

You can also acquire citizenship in the following cases:

  • You are under 18 years of age and a lawful permanent resident and one or both parents are naturalized. 
  • After being adopted by an American citizen parent.

2# Determine Your Eligibility To Obtain American Citizenship

Generally, you can qualify for the naturalization process and obtain American citizenship if you:

  • Are 18 years old, 
  • Have been a lawful permanent resident for a certain period of time, and
  • Meet all eligibility requirements for the process.

Likewise, you may qualify for naturalization based on military service. However, this has specific requirements for it. 

The U. S. government recognizes the sacrifice the military makes for the country. For this reason, it offers exclusive programs for them, such as Military Parole in Place. Such a program allows family members of military personnel to obtain a Green Card if they meet certain requirements.

3# Prepare Form N-400, Application For Naturalization

Once you meet all the requirements to obtain American citizenship, you must complete Form N-400 to begin the process.

You can create an account and file your N-400 online, giving you the ability to:

  • Receive alerts about the status of your case, 
  • Send messages, 
  • Review all correspondence related to the case, 
  • Check your current status, 
  • Update personal information, and 
  • Send evidence when necessary.
mistakes when filling out the N-400 naturalization application

You should be careful not to make mistakes when completing the N-400 naturalization application, as this would affect your application. Additionally, USCIS may request additional information if your filing is incomplete. This usually delays the process.

4# Submit Form N-400 To USCIS

Submit your application, along with the required documents and applicable fees, to USCIS. 

If you reside outside of the United States, please include passport-style photographs with your application. 

After submitting Form N-400, you can check current processing times and application status through your USCIS account.

5# Go To The Biometric Services Appointment

USCIS requires applicants to provide fingerprints and have photographs taken. This is to conduct criminal background checks through the FBI.

It is important that applicants have completed a background check before USCIS schedules an interview.

6# Complete The USCIS Interview

After completing the preliminary processes, USCIS will schedule an interview with you.

Appear on the date and time indicated on your appointment notice and carry this notice with you. Attendance as well as punctuality are key. If you are unable to attend, follow the instructions on the notice to contact the office to reschedule your appointment.

Keep in mind that this can add several months to the process of obtaining American citizenship.

how long does it take to obtain american citizenship

7# Receive USCIS Decision On Form N-400

You will receive a written notification regarding the USCIS decision, which may be:

  • Granted: If the recorded evidence confirms your eligibility for naturalization.
  • Denied: If the evidence recorded establishes that you do not meet the requirements for naturalization.
  • Continued: If you have to provide additional evidence, you did not submit the appropriate documents or you have failed an exam.

If your request is approved, continue with the next step. Otherwise, you may be able to appeal the decision in your immigration case.

8# Wait To Receive A Notice To take the oath of allegiance

With the application already approved, USCIS will send you a notification by mail to take the oath of allegiance. In this you will see the date, time and place of the oath.

In some limited circumstances, you may have the option to participate in an induction ceremony on the same day as the interview. If you are unable to attend the ceremony and wish to reschedule, follow the instructions on Form N-445.

9# Take The Oath of allegiance To The United States

You will not be a U. S. citizen until you take the oath of allegiance to the country at the naturalization ceremony. This is handled by USCIS in an administrative ceremony or by a judge in a judicial ceremony.

Once you complete it, you will receive your naturalization certificate and hand over your Green Card, as you will no longer need it. 

Have you lost your U. S. citizenship certificate and don’t know what to do? Don’t be alarmed, in our blog we show you the steps to follow.

10# Understand The Duties And Rights That Come With Being a U. S. Citizen

All citizens, whether by birth or choice, must exercise, respect and honor the United States. Although some of these responsibilities are mandatory, all play a crucial role in ensuring the vitality and democracy of our country.

That being said, you as an American citizen will have the following rights and responsibilities:

Rights

Responsibilities

  • Support and defend the United States Constitution.
  • Participate and stay informed about issues affecting your community.
  • Actively participate in the democratic process.
  • Respect and obey federal, state and local laws.
  • Respect the rights, beliefs and opinions of others.
  • Pay honestly and punctually income taxes and other taxes to federal, state and local authorities.
  • Serve on a jury when summoned.
  • Provide service to the country as needed.

Requirements To Obtain American Citizenship

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

  • To be 18 years old or more. 
  • Have obtained a Green Card for a few years,
  • Have a basic level of written, read and spoken English. Although there are exceptions.
  • Must have good moral character.
  • Possess a basic knowledge of U. S. laws. Although it also has its exceptions.

Additionally, you must met other requirements for both physical presence and continuous residence. These are:

  • Physical presence in the U. S. Applicants will need to demonstrate that they have been:
    • Physically in the United States for 30 months during the 5-year period before applying.
    • Physically in the United States for 18 months during the 3-year period before filing if you are the spouse of an American 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 U. S. Applicants will need to demonstrate that they have:
    • Continuously resided in the U. S. for at least 5 years before applying.
    • Continuously resided in the U. S. for at least 3 years before applying for spouses of U. S. citizens.

Exceptions For Civics And English Exams

You may be exempt for the English exam if:

  • You are 50 years of age or older and have been a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years.
  • You are 55 years of age or older and have been a lawful permanent resident for at least 15 years.
  • You are 65 years of age or older and have been a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years. Unlike the previous ones, you can do it with the help of specific forms provided by the administration.

On the other hand, if you have a physical or mental disability that prevents you from meeting the requirements, you may be exempt from taking both exams. Contact us if you have questions.

When Can I Apply For American Citizenship?

In other words, how many years do I have to live in the United States to obtain residency? Well, you can apply for naturalization if you are at least 18 years old and have been a lawful permanent resident of the United States for:

  • 5 years, or
  • 3 years, if you have been and remain married, living in a marital relationship with a U.S. citizen spouse.

Likewise, you can also do so if you have served honorably in the U. S. military. Some spouses of citizens and members of the military may apply for naturalization before the periods mentioned.

Did you know that through the asylum process it is possible to obtain a Green Card? If you apply and are eligible, over the years you could apply for American citizenship.

How Long Does It Take To Process American Citizenship?

The average process time to obtain American citizenship is approximately 10 months. 

The amount of time the U. S. citizenship process takes will also depend on how long you have to go. For example, this process covers the application, interview, exams, interview and so on. So, it could go between 10 and 24 months generally.

If you have waited a long time for your application to be processed, a writ of mandamus may help you.

How Much Does It Cost To Complete The Process To Obtain American Citizenship In 2024?

The current total fee to submit a naturalization application to the U. S. government is $725. This rate includes:

  • $640 from Form N-400, and 
  • $85 for biometric services. 
citizenship

This cost can be reduced or eliminated if you are:

  • A U. S. military member or veteran: Your application will be free.
  • 75 years of age or older: You will not have to pay for biometric services. So your request will be only $640.
  • Between 18 and 74 years old and request or receive a rate reduction: It can be reduced to $405. If you are 75 years old or older, it will be reduced to $320.

Is It Difficult To Obtain U. S. Citizenship?

Obtaining U. S. citizenship is complicated due to certain elements. For example: 

  • Long processing times, 
  • Financial or personal costs, and 
  • Lack of direct relatives who are U. S. citizens. 

USCIS requirements are complex and may be difficult to understand for individuals outside of these procedures. Therefore, it is best to have the help of good lawyers, such as our immigration lawyers in New Jersey .

Should I Show Knowledge Of US Government And History?

For the civic test, a list of 100 questions is provided to study before the citizenship interview. During the interview, 10 questions are asked randomly, and you must answer 6 correctly to pass. 

For individuals age 65 or older with at least 20 years of lawful permanent residence, there is a list of 20 questions, with 6 out of 10 required. 

If there are medical conditions that prevent learning this, an exemption can be obtained by completing Form N-648 with a doctor. Some examples include:

  • Brain injuries, 
  • Apoplexy, 
  • Dementia, or 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Who Can Be Considered American Citizens?

According to USCIS, an American citizen is an individual who has obtained American citizenship by:

  • Marriage,
  • Naturalization, or
  • Birth.

It should be noted that in the case of marriage, the union between couples must be genuine. To do this, couples will undergo a few marriage-based Green Card interview questions or a stokes interview.

What Is The Difference Between An American Citizen By Marriage, Birth Or Naturalization?

There are differences between these types of American citizenship, which include:

  • Marriage: When a lawful permanent resident marries a U. S. citizen and applies for citizenship after 3 years of marriage.
  • Naturalization: It is the process in which a lawful permanent resident becomes an American citizen by complying with the requirements of immigration law. 
  • Birth: Refers to any descendant of American citizens regardless of their place of birth. The law defines a “child” as an unmarried individual who is the biological, legitimized or adopted child of an American citizen.

It should be noted that in the latter, a child can also be a descendant of an American gestational mother. But must be legally recognized as the child’s mother.

Other Ways by which you can become an American Citizen

Apart from those mentioned, other individuals can be citizens by:

  • Acquisition: When someone is naturalized as a U. S. citizen, their children under the age of 18 can become citizens. But they must be lawful permanent residents and be in the custody of one of their parents.
  • Adoption: When a child born abroad is adopted by an American citizen.
  • Be a U. S. military member: Members of the US Armed Forces can apply for US citizenship. This is through the accelerated naturalization process.

ObtainING Citizenship As A U. S. Military Member

You can become a United States citizen if you are in the military under one of the following circumstances if you served:

  • For one year in peacetime: You can apply for citizenship during service or within 6 months after your honorable separation from the military. It is not necessary to have a Green Card for a certain number of years or to have physically lived in the country for a certain number of months.
  • For less than one year in peacetime: You can apply for citizenship 5 years after obtaining the Green Card. In addition, you have been present in the U. S. for at least 30 months.
  • For at least a year in peacetime and then requested to be honorably separated from the military: The request must have been submitted for at least 6 months. Once done, you will be able to obtain citizenship after 5 years after obtaining the Green Card. But he must have lived in the U. S. for 30 months.
  • During wartime: You can apply for citizenship at any time, without needing a Green Card. But physical presence in the U. S. is required at key times of military service. There are no specific Green Card requirements or length of prior residence in the U. S. prior to application.

How Can You Tell If A Person Is An American Citizen?

Those born in the United States or its territories are automatically citizens, but it is also possible to be so even if you were not born within the country.

On the other hand, it is also possible to know if an individual is an American citizen through certain official documents. These include:

  • U. S. passport.
  • Certificate of American citizenship.
  • Naturalization certificate.
  • U. S. public birth records showing birth in one of the 50 states, the American territories, or Guam.
  • Birth report certification.
  • ID card.
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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.

What Is The Process To Obtain Dual Citizenship?

Having dual nationality or citizenship implies that an individual holds the status of citizen in two countries at the same time. Therefore, those who are American citizens:

  • Must demonstrate loyalty to both the United States and the corresponding foreign country.
  • Are required to use their U. S. passport when entering and leaving the U. S.
  • Are not obliged to make a definitive decision between one nationality and another.

Who Can Obtain Dual Citizenship?

The possibility of having dual nationality depends on the laws of the second country. Some allow you to keep it after obtaining American citizenship. 

If you are in the U. S, contact the other country’s embassy or consulate to confirm recognition of dual nationality. 

Can I Become A U. S. Citizen From Abroad?

Although certain individuals can become American citizens if they were born outside the United States, it is not possible to naturalize if they are outside the country. 

Therefore, you must remain physically in the U. S. to become a citizen through naturalization.

How Can I Become A U. S. Citizen Without Knowing How To Speak English?

Although speaking English is mandatory to complete the process to obtain American citizenship, there are exceptions. 

For example, those over 50 who have lived in the United States for a certain period of time.

Can I Lose My American Citizenship?

American citizens by birth cannot lose their citizenship against their will. This is according to the 14th amendment of the Constitution. Although, they can choose to renounce.

On the other hand, foreigners who managed to become American citizens through naturalization can lose it. This process is called “denaturalization” and they could be subject to deportation from the country.

Denaturalization can occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Run for public office in a foreign country.
  • Participate in military service in a foreign nation.
  • Apply for citizenship in another country with the intention of renouncing U. S. citizenship.
  • Commit acts of treason against the United States.
  • Commit certain crimes.

Do I Need A Lawyer To Apply For The Process Of Obtaining American Citizenship?

You will not necessarily need a lawyer, as applicants can submit the N-400 form themselves online. 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 expert lawyer will help you avoid making any mistakes that would be critical in the process. Therefore, our lawyers Carolina T. Curbelo and Sharon Lieberman are at your disposal.

Immigration Lawyers To Obtain American Citizenship

Now that you know when and how you can apply for American citizenship, it is important to have legal help to do so. Any errors or lack of documentation could delay your application, or worse, have it rejected. 

Our lawyers have more than 10 years of experience in these types of processes so you will be in the best possible hands. 

Call Curbelo Law in Ridgewood, NJ today for a private consultation. Our experts will assess what scenario you are in and get you the help you need.