Both citizens and non-citizens of the United States enjoy many rights and privileges, but only citizens get to experience the full range of benefits available.
Citizens are allowed to vote and hold government jobs, for example, and they can’t be removed or deported under any circumstances. Citizens also have greater freedom to travel and live abroad for any period of time, unlike permanent residents, who can risk losing their residency status if they’re away from the US for too long.
Citizens also have the right to bring family members to the US – typically by petitioning for their parents, married or unmarried children, and siblings to immigrate.
If you’re considering living in the US, it’s obviously a huge advantage to become a naturalised citizen. It’s most people’s dream, and it can become a dream for the whole family if the correct procedure is followed.
The basic requirements for naturalisation
Meeting the naturalisation requirements is not difficult, although there are some stringent requirements that function as a barrier to entry for undesirable individuals. Naturalization Interview & Testing is mandatory and a new, slightly more rigorous test will be rolled out in December this year or early in 2021.
Before you apply, you need to meet some basic requirements, including:
- Being at least 18 years of age (minor children of naturalised parents can usually become citizens through their parents);
- Being admitted as a lawful permanent resident of the US (the first step in the process);
- Residing in the US for at least five years (or three years if married to a US citizen, provided you remain married and live in a valid marital union for all three years);
- Maintaining a physical presence in the US for at least half the five years stipulated (or three years if married to a US citizen);
- Maintaining continuity of residence (that is, not be absent from the US for a period exceeding 180 days). Exceptions are made, however, if you work for the US government, a US company located overseas, or an educational/charitable institution
- Residing in the state where you filed your application for at least three months prior to applying.
- Reporting any change of address to the Department of Homeland Security within 10 days of the change. Change of Address Form (AR-11) can be found at http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/ar-11.pdf.
- Proving you are of sound moral character for five years (or three years if married to a US citizen and one year if applying to enter the US military). The USCIS has the discretion to view your record beyond the statutory period.
- Speaking, reading and writing basic English and having a rudimentary knowledge of US history and civics, which is proven by means of the naturalisation test (some older or disabled applicants are exempt).
- Complying with US laws (including state and local laws). Permanent residents who violate these laws can be deported.
- Taking an Oath of Allegiance.
The naturalisation process: what you can expect
Applicants must prepare and file an N-400 Application for Naturalization and undergo a criminal background check.
Applicants must report to their local USCIS district officer on a specified date for a personal interview, where the English and civics tests will be taken. If applicants are successful, they will become US citizens at an oath-taking ceremony, where they will receive a certificate of naturalisation. They can then apply for a US passport.
The naturalisation process currently takes around a year to complete, from the date when the application is filed (processing time depends on the government’s case load and the complexity of the individual case). However, the wait is worthwhile – ask any naturalised US citizen, who now enjoys a large number of advantages.
American Dream works with experienced immigration attorneys who can guide you through every step in your immigration journey. Contact us today for more information.