For many individuals, American citizenship is the gold standard. While tourists and permanent residents can enjoy some of the perks…

For many individuals, American citizenship is the gold standard. While tourists and permanent residents can enjoy some of the perks of being in the U.S., they don’t receive the many benefits of citizenship. But the naturalization process can change that. When you go through the process, you can become a citizen. Then, you can vote, get priority green cards for your family, and work federal jobs. The process is very challenging. Fortunately, you don’t have to handle it alone. The U.S. Immigration Law Counsel can help you on your journey to become a U.S. citizen.

Understanding Naturalization

Naturalization is the process in which someone goes through to become a U.S. citizen. If you are an immigrant with a green card or one with military service, then you may be eligible for the process.

Typically, permanent residents need between three and five years of residency to become eligible. But the amount of time you have possessed a green card isn’t the only important factor. The government also considers how much time you’ve spent living in the U.S.

You must also meet some other requirements. For one, you need to be 18 years of age or older. If you left the U.S. for six months at a time or longer, you may be ineligible. You can only apply for citizenship in a state in which you have been a resident for a minimum of three months.

Additionally, you need to show that you have “good moral character.” This means that you have to have similar character to others in your neighborhood and a relatively clean record. Many crimes, like murder and illegal gambling, can prohibit you from becoming a citizen.

When to File

You could wait to apply for citizenship until you meet the time requirements. However, you also have the option to file early. If you are a green card holder, you can submit your application 90 days before you reach the full three or five years.

With early filing, you cannot receive citizenship before the time is up. But you can get a headstart on the process. It makes the lengthy procedure a little shorter.

The Path to Citizenship

If you meet all the citizenship requirements, you can begin the process. It all starts with your naturalization application. You need to obtain a form N-400 and pay the filing fee. In some cases, an individual may be exempt from the filing fee.

You can fill out the application online or submit it through the mail. Before you file an online application, you need to create an online account. Applicants with fee waivers or reduction request cannot submit their applications online.


After you submit your application, you need to make a biometrics appointment. Your local USCIS office will take your fingerprints. Then, they will use those prints to run a background check.

Interview and Exam

Once your background check is complete, you can have your interview and exam. This usually occurs about 14 months after you file your citizenship request. However, the timeline depends on the wait times at your local office.

At your appointment, the interviewer will ask you about your application. They want to verify that all of the details are correct and that there is no fraud. The interview can occur in the U.S. or from a U.S. embassy or consulate in another country. If the applicant is an active duty military member, they could have their interview at a military installation.

You also need to take the naturalization test. There are two parts to the test. First, there’s a language test that examines how well you read, write, and speak English. Secondly, there’s a civics test. This part of the process questions your knowledge of U.S. government and the country’s history. The government provides you with a study guide for the exam.

In most cases, you cannot receive citizenship if you don’t pass the tests. However, there are some exceptions. Your age or disability could change your testing requirements. For instance, individuals over a certain age answer fewer questions and have more room for error.

If you fail your test the first time around, you do get a second chance. You can retake the portions that you fail sometime after your first testing. But if you pass the interview and the test at the time of your appointment, your officer might approve your citizenship request immediately. In other cases, the officer might request more documentation or another interview.


A denial letter doesn’t need to be the end of your journey to citizenship. If you receive a letter denying your application, you can request an appeal. You must make the appeal within 30 days of receiving your letter. If you don’t want to appeal, you can choose to re-apply.

The Oath

If your officer approves your application, you might be tempted to celebrate. But don’t start the festivities until after your Oath of Allegiance ceremony. You do not attain citizenship status unless you attend the ceremony.

In the time following your interview, you will receive a letter that gives you the details of the ceremony. Typically, it takes place at a courthouse or USCIS office. There’s no way to say for certain when your ceremony will take place; every location has a different wait time.

During the ceremony, you will give back your green card. By the end of the proceedings, you will be a U.S. citizen.

Why You Should Work with a Lawyer

Becoming a U.S. citizen could change your life forever. But the process takes time and effort. There are many missteps you can make along the way.

By working with an immigration attorney, you can avoid making mistakes. You can also learn how to better prepare yourself for the process. If you encounter any challenges along the way, your lawyer can help you overcome them.

Here at the U.S. Immigration Law Counsel, we’ve helped many immigrants achieve their dreams of citizenship. And we want to assist you. With our experience, we can give you the resources and knowledge you need to get a good outcome. If you’re ready to get started, give us a call.

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