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Understanding the Path to U.S. Citizenship

On behalf of Sayer Regan & Thayer of Sayer Regan & Thayer, LLP posted on Wednesday, June 30, 2022.

Naturalization is the process one must go through whereby an immigrant to the United States becomes a U.S. citizen. Not every immigrant is eligible, which is why you should start by finding out if you are indeed eligible before starting the process.

Generally, you must be at least 18 years old, a legal permanent resident of the United States, be physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the last five years, and have the ability to read, speak, write, and understand English, to name a few requirements. Understanding the path to U.S. citizenship is a complex undertaking, and one that shouldn’t be navigated without the assistance and guidance of an immigration lawyer.

How Long Does it Take?

Currently, it takes between 18 and 24 months to complete the naturalization process, thus becoming a U.S. citizen. Let’s break that down further into the five main steps on the path to U.S. citizenship.

5 Steps to Becoming a U.S. Citizen

Step #1: File Form N-400

First, you must fill out Form N-400 (“Application for Naturalization”), which is processed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The USCIS gets thousands of applications for U.S. citizenship every year, which as you can assume, results in a lot of delays and backlogs.

Processing times will vary based on location. To kick start the process, send the above citizenship application and supporting documents to the USCIS. The sooner you can gather and provide supporting documents, the sooner your case can be reviewed. This is where having an attorney skilled in immigration law can speed things up.

Step #2: Attend Biometrics Appointment

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Once all the paperwork has been submitted, you must attend your biometrics appointment, which is when your fingerprints, photos, and signature will be taken and documented for the record. This will be scheduled approximately one month after the USCIS receives your citizenship application. You will receive an appointment letter, Form I-797C (the “Notice of Action”), in the mail, which will notify you of where the appointment will be. The information gleaned from this appointment will help the USCIS verify your identity and allow them to conduct a background check on you with the FBI.

When attending this appointment, be sure to bring:

• Your appointment letter
• Lawful permanent resident card (AKA green card)
• Second form of photo ID (driver’s license, passport, state ID, etc.)
• All necessary supporting documents

It’s important that you bring all documentation that is asked of you. If you fail to do so, you could delay the processing time further.

You may be asked to attend a second biometrics appointment if there are concerns about your fingerprints that were submitted to the FBI. You may also get a “Request for Evidence” (RFE) letter, which means the USCIS needs more information or documents from you.

Step #3: Citizenship Interview and Test

You will have to attend a U.S. citizenship interview, which will happen about 14 months after the USCIS has received your application. You will get a letter stating the date and location for the interview, along with a list of documents you will need to provide. Be sure your mailing address is current and updated so you can receive this letter in a timely manner. The information received in this interview will help the USCIS see your good moral character.

On the same day, you will also have to take the U.S. citizenship test. Make sure you are well-prepared for this test, which will confirm your English language skills and also contain many civics sections. If you have to retake the exam for any reason, you will have to return to the same site 60 to 90 days later.

Step #4: Get Application Decision

If there are no issues with your application, the USCIS will approve it on the same day of your test and interview, provided all else goes well. If they do not do this on the same day, expect to hear from them up to 120 days from that date.

You will then receive Form N-652 (the “Notice of Examination Results”) that will let you know if your application is approved, continued or denied. When an application is “continued,” this means it’s on hold because you didn’t pass the exam or failed to provide the proper documents.

If your application is denied, you can file for an appeal within 30 days. If the hearing officer again denies your application, a U.S. district court may be assigned to review your case.

Step #5: Oath of Allegiance

Once your application has been approved, you will have to take the Oath of Allegiance. This ceremony usually occurs on the same day as the exam and interview. If this cannot be arranged, you will receive a date two to six weeks later to take your oath, receiving a Form N-445 (the “Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony”) in the mail.

At the ceremony, you will be awarded your certificate of naturalization. You will also get information on how you can register to vote.

As you can see, filing the proper forms in a timely manner makes all the difference along the path to U.S. citizenship. Don’t go it alone. Let us help.

Contact Sayer Regan & Thayer

If you are interested in beginning the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, please contact us for your free, no-obligation consultation. Rest assured, our attorneys have many years of experience in immigration law, specifically in regards to visas, green cards and U.S. citizenship. Let us help you fill out the forms, submit them and interpret results.

These materials have been prepared by SRT for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

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