Many immigrants dream of becoming U.S. citizens – to ensure they permanently can call the United States home and can vote for their local, state and national leaders. If you have recently immigrated, you may wonder how long it will take to officially become a U.S. citizen.
Steps to become a U.S. citizen
The U.S. citizenship process is complicated and involves several steps. First, you must obtain a green card. With a green card, you become a permanent resident. Then you must live in the United States for at least five years (three years if you are married to and living with a U.S. citizen).
Before you apply for U.S. citizenship, you need to know if you are eligible. That means you must be:
- At least 18 years old
- Have good moral character
- Able to speak, read and write basic English
- Understand the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution
- Have a basic understanding of how government works in the United States and of U.S. history
- Take an oath of allegiance to the United States
If you are eligible to become a U.S. citizen and have lived here long enough, you can apply for naturalization. The naturalization process can take anywhere between six months to a year. As part of your naturalization, you must complete a biometrics screening. You will be fingerprinted, photographed and undergo background checks from the Department of Justice, FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
Once your background checks are complete, you will undergo an interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS officials will interview you about your background, character, understanding of the U.S. Constitution and ask if you are willing to take an oath of allegiance.
If your interview goes well, you then will have to take a test on U.S. government and history. If you pass the citizenship test, you are eligible to take the oath of naturalization.
Getting help with the citizenship process
If you want to avoid problems in your citizenship application process, you should work closely with an experienced immigration attorney. The citizenship application process is complex. The immigration and citizenship laws often change. Working with an attorney can help you avoid unnecessary delays in becoming a U.S. citizen.
With an attorney’s help, you are more likely to achieve your dream and become a U.S. citizen. Then you will enjoy the rights and freedoms that come with citizenship for the rest of your life.