US Citizenship and Naturalization
Becoming a U.S. citizen is a lengthy process – and many people choose to work with a San Francisco immigration attorney so they have someone in their corner every step of the way.
Whether you’re just beginning your journey or you’re already a lawful permanent resident with a green card, our team may be able to help you become a United States citizen.
What is Naturalization?
If you’re not a U.S. citizen by birth, or you didn’t gain U.S. citizenship from a parent when you were born, you must go through the naturalization process to gain citizenship in the United States. Acquiring citizenship is the highest immigration benefit you can receive.
When you become a naturalized citizen of the United States, you’ll have all the same rights and responsibilities that every other citizen has.
You have the right to vote in elections, use a U.S. passport, sponsor relatives who are seeking immigration to the U.S., and have increased access to government programs like Social Security and Medicare.
You may be called to military service or to serve on a jury, and you’ll have to pay U.S. taxes (even if you stop living in the U.S.).
Is it Hard to Become a U.S. Citizen?
Not everyone is eligible for United States citizenship. However, if you are eligible (more on that later), you’ll make your way through the naturalization process.
There are several steps you need to follow, which is why many people choose to work with a San Francisco immigration attorney. These are the steps you and your attorney must take before you can become a citizen:
- Determine eligibility
- File the appropriate forms with supporting documentation
- Provide biometric data to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Participate in a naturalization interview and take the citizenship test
- Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States
Who’s Eligible for U.S. Citizenship?
To be eligible for United States citizenship, you must meet these criteria:
- Be at least 18 years old when you file your application
- Have been a lawful permanent resident in the United States for the past three or five years (depending on how you acquired your green card)
- Live in the United States with continuous residency
- Be able to speak basic English, as well as read and write in English
- Be a person of good moral character
- Have an understanding of U.S. history and government
- Demonstrate loyalty to the U.S. Constitution
- Be prepared to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States
What Forms Does Your Attorney Need to File?
The forms your attorney will file on your behalf depend on where you are in your citizenship journey.
Before you can apply for naturalized citizenship you must be a lawful permanent resident for at least three years if you’re married to a U.S. citizen or for at least five years.
If you aren’t yet a lawful permanent resident, your attorney will file the forms asking the government to give you a green card.
If you’re already a lawful permanent resident, your immigration attorney will file Form N-400 for you.
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What Kind of Supporting Documentation Do You Need for U.S. Citizenship?
Most people need to submit supporting documentation when they apply for U.S. citizenship. Your San Francisco immigration attorney can talk to you about specific documents you may need for your case, but generally, these are some documents you should include with your petition:
- Proof of your permanent resident status (a front-and-back copy of your green card)
- Certification of your current marital status, whether you’re married, divorced, or a widow or widower
- Two passport-style photos
- Proof of military service (if you have it)
- Documentation of any medical disability you have
You’ll also be required to bring certain documents to your naturalization interview (more on that later). Some of the documents you’ll need to bring include:
- Your green card
- State-issued identification
- Travel records
- Proof of your current marital status, as well as documentation that your (and your spouse’s) previous marriages have been lawfully terminated
- Proof of an official name change if you’ve changed your name
- Documentation that shows your spouse was a U.S. citizen at least three years prior to filing your Form N-400
- Proof of parental rights over your children
- Tax payment records
- Proof that you have resided continuously in the United States
- A Registration Acknowledgement Card from the Selective Service, if applicable, or a similar document
- Any criminal records you have
What Biometric Data Do You Need to Give the U.S. Government When You Apply for Citizenship?
If you haven’t already provided the U.S. government with your fingerprints and signature (most people have by the time they apply for citizenship), you’ll have to attend a biometrics appointment. These appointments generally last about 15 minutes. You’ll receive a notice from the government that includes the date, time and location of your appointment.
Do You Have to Renounce Your Citizenship of Another Country to Become a U.S. Citizen?
The United States allows dual citizenship. That means you can retain citizenship in your original country while being a U.S. citizen at the same time. (The only catch is that you must use your U.S. passport when you travel in and out of the United States.) However, some countries require you to renounce your original citizenship when you become a U.S. citizen. You should check your home country’s policy on holding dual citizenship before you apply for naturalization.
All About the Naturalization Interview
Everyone who wishes to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization is required to participate in a naturalization interview. During this interview, you’ll sit down with an interviewing official from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. The official will ask you questions about your application and your background. The officer’s job is to make sure that everything you’ve listed on your application is true and correct, and that you’re actually eligible to become a United States citizen.
You’ll take the U.S. citizenship test during your naturalization interview, as well. There are two parts to the test: questions about the U.S. government and history (civics), as well as an English evaluation. You’ll be required to answer up to ten questions (six of which you must answer correctly) about how the United States’ government works and the country’s history. During that time, your interviewer will be evaluating your ability to speak and understand English. You’ll also be asked to read and write something in English. Don’t stress too much about the civics portion; you can find all the questions and answers here.
How Long Does it Take to Receive a Decision on Your Citizenship?
In some cases, USCIS officials make an immigration decision right at the interview. If your interviewer grants your petition on the spot, you may even be able to participate in a naturalization ceremony the same day. If there isn’t a naturalization ceremony that day, you’ll receive a time and date for yours in the mail soon after your interview.
However, sometimes interviewers need more information or clarification. Your interviewer may let you know that they can’t make a decision at that time; in a case like that, you’ll receive a formal request for information or a decision notice in the mail after your interview.
What is the Oath of Allegiance?
During your naturalization ceremony, you’ll take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. After that’s completed, you’ll receive your naturalization certificate and officially become a U.S. citizen.
How Much Does the Application for Naturalization Cost?
The U.S. government charges a filing fee for naturalization applications. It’s currently $640, plus an additional fee for biometrics. You can use the USCIS fee calculator here and speak to your San Francisco immigration attorney to make sure you’re aware of the most current rates.
How a San Francisco Immigration Lawyer Will Help You Apply for U.S. Citizenship
Your attorney will be there with you every step of the way during your naturalization process. Your lawyer will give you advice, answer your questions, and even fill out and file U.S. government forms for you. In fact, your attorney will deal with USCIS on your behalf so you only need to worry about when and where to show up for things like a biometrics appointment and your naturalization interview.
Many people choose to work with an immigration attorney because of the amount of paperwork it requires to apply for U.S. citizenship. Unfortunately, a simple mistake on one of the forms can result in a lengthy delay in your application – and in some cases, a mistake can result in an outright denial. But before you even file the paperwork, your attorney will be there to ensure you’re eligible for citizenship and that there aren’t any special circumstances that could derail your petition (such as a criminal history, a period of time during which you didn’t reside in the United States, or anything else).
Do You Need to Talk to a San Francisco Immigration Attorney About Naturalization?
If you’re considering becoming a U.S. citizen, we may be able to help you. Call our office to schedule your consultation with an experienced and caring San Francisco immigration attorney now.
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