To become a U.S. citizen, one must undergo naturalization. Naturalization is the legal process in which an immigrant or foreign citizen completes an application, and must pass two tests to become a formal citizen of the United States. The government uses this strenuous process as a way of filtering out those that do not truly wish to become citizens. Due to the overwhelming amount of paperwork and the need for absolute correctness on the application for naturalization, one would greatly benefit by hiring an attorney for the naturalization process.
To become a naturalized citizen, one must*:
Be 18 years of age
Have lawful permanent residence and continuous residence in the U.S. for five years (three years if one obtained a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen)
Be physically present for half those years
Have good moral character
Belief in the fundamental principles of the United States Constitution
Be able to read, write, and communicate in English
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government
*Exceptions apply for those have special circumstances; those with disabilities, members of the military, veterans, spouses married to U.S. citizens overseas, and others who have lived in the U.S. for an extended period of time.
United States citizens enjoy many privileges that those with legal resident status do not have. Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections, be elected as a federal official, or be eligible for federal jobs. Once an immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, he or she has priority over others to bring his/her family into the country and can more easily naturalize his children that were born abroad. A naturalized citizen can also obtain a U.S. passport and express commitment to his or her new country.
The Naturalization process is long and difficult. To be certain you follow all the necessary steps and procedures correctly, it helps to hire an immigration lawyer to aid you on your track to becoming a citizen.
To begin the Naturalization process, you need an Application for Naturalization (Form N-400). A link to the application is provided below. In addition to the Application for Naturalization, you will need two passport-style photographs, money to pay the fee, and necessary documents* for identification. Remember to keep a copy of everything you send to the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).
After you send in the above documents, you will receive an appointment time from the USCIS to be fingerprinted. After this is done, the USCIS will schedule an interview. When you go to the interview, bring proper identification, two additional passport photos and other necessary documents**. During the interview, you will need to answer questions about yourself and your background, and also take an English and History test. You will then receive a decision and be required to take an oath of allegiance to the United States at a separate ceremony.
*Be certain to also send a translation of any non-English documents.
**USCIS will send you a letter telling you about any other needed documentation.
Please click on the link for the Application for Naturalization Form N-400 (For Download Form N-400).