How long does it take to earn legal citizenship in the United States?
In order to obtain United States (US) citizenship if you are not born within the US or US territories you must get a green card, then take the citizenship test as well as pass an interview. This process is not done overnight; pre-covid19 it could take up to six (6) months to a year from the time you put in your application. Post covid it can take even longer between a year and half but as always it depends on the specific facts of your case.
Getting your US green card is the initial step that actually starts your citizenship process. This Blog by PROD gives the time frames and requirements for US citizenship. There are certain preliminary eligibility criteria for US citizenship. Generally speaking you must have the following items below before seeking US citizenship.
Be a green card holder, be a lawful permanent resident, be over eighteen (18) years old, be able to show that for at least five continuous years you have been present in the US. Those married to a US citizen, however, must only show that for the last three years they have been present in the US continuously. Lastly, you must have proof that for at least three consecutive months you lived in the same state or USCIS district.
As is always the case, every case depends on their specific facts, while the above criteria is generally what is required to qualify for US citizenship. Starting the process for most will involve filing a N-400 Form, Application for Naturalization. Along with the application you submit to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (hereafter “USCIS”) you are required to provide two passport size & shape photos. Also, other additional documentation showing the above criteria has been met must be attached to the application.
Depending on when you file your application it will take a longer or shorter amount of time for the USCIS to review your application. Where you are living dictates where your application must be filed. To find the post COVID19 processing times, review the center processing the applications in your area website, other online information, or call their phone lines. During this time USCIS reviews your application and additional documents to see if you can be a US citizen or not. It's very important that the USCIS has your current address because that is how it will predominantly communicate with you. Although since COVID19 all government agencies have moved much more of their activity online.
The next step is biometrics which includes your fingerprints, signature and a photograph. This takes place at a USCIS center; there will be a criminal check done on your background. Additional information may be demanded at this stage by written letter; what exactly is being demanded will be specified, where to send it and by when will be outlined in the letter. After all the necessary information is received an interview will be scheduled. Notice again of the interview will come by mail, location, time, and dates will also be included.
The interview will be an opportunity for the officers of USCIS to answer any questions they may have with the application and get clarifying answers regarding the same. The interview's purpose is for the officers of USCIS to determine if you should be a US citizen or not. Questions regarding the criteria for you to be a US citizen may be a topic of questions asked by the interviewers. As a sample question, a question about your green card and who sponsored it could be asked. Certainly if your background check for criminality shows a history of criminal acts then that may also be a subject of your interviewers questions. You must have a valid defensible position/answer to all of the interviewer’s questions if you intend on receiving an approval for your application to become a US citizen.
Once you pass the interview stage you must take the two tests: US history and English. Unless, you have had your green card for over a specific period of time or are too old then you can get an exception. The last step is the ceremony for naturalization which comes after you’ve completed all the prior steps including the two tests described above. How long it takes to get to each one of these steps depends on the area you live and the local rules. At this final stage, you’ll be asked to pledge your commitment and allegiance to the US. In exchange for completion of all of these steps your turn in your green card and get back a Naturalization Certificate. This certificate will show that you are a US citizen. Although this process is tedious and may take time if it is something you truly desire you can accomplish it.
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***Disclaimer: This is not legal advice but general educational material. This does not create an attorney & client relationship. You should consult an attorney in your locale. Credit: