Becoming a U.S. citizen
Individuals who have been a permanent resident (also referred to as a green card holder) for at least 5 years (and in some cases 3 years) and who meet the following criteria are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship through a process called naturalization.
What are the requirements?
What are the steps for applying?
The permanent resident must complete and submit Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization) to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with any supporting documentation and the filing fee.
The permanent resident will then have to attend a biometrics appointment where their fingerprints, photo, and signature will be taken for their application. Normally, an appointment letter will be mailed to the permanent resident about a month or so after having submitted Form N-400. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will use this information to conduct a background on the permanent resident to determine if they are eligible for U.S. citizenship.
The permanent resident will then be scheduled to attend a citizenship exam and interview. This will normally happen about 6 months to 1 year after the permanent resident has submitted their naturalization application (but note that processing times can vary). The date and location of the hearing will be sent to the applicant in a letter from USCIS.
It should be noted that the exam and interview are normally done on the same day so be prepared for both! Each applicant has two chances to take the exam, which usually takes place on the same day as the citizenship interview.
The Citizenship Exam: What to Expect
As part of the naturalization process, applicants must pass a two-part naturalization test. The first part is an English test that assesses the applicant’s ability to read, write, and speak in English. The second, a civics test, evaluates the applicant’s knowledge of U.S. history and government.
The English test is composed of 3 components:
The civics portion of the exam will consist of 10 questions about U.S. history and the U.S. system of government. To pass this part of the citizenship test, you must be able to demonstrate sufficient knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government, by answering at least six out of 10 questions correctly. The immigration officer will randomly select the questions, read them aloud to you, and stop the test once you’ve provided the right answer to six questions. You’ll be allowed to phrase your answers in any way as long as they are correct.
Tips for preparing for your citizenship interview
Can I retake the test?
Yes! You will have 2 chances to take the exam. If you fail to pass the test the first time, you will be able to retake the whole exam or even just the portion of the naturalization test that you failed. This is normally scheduled by USCIS 2-3 months after your first exam. When taking the test a second time, keep in mind that the questions will be different, so study up!
If you fail to pass both times, your citizenship application will be denied. You can appeal the denial by writing to USCIS within 30 days of receiving a letter of rejection. If your request is granted, a hearing will be scheduled 180 days within receipt of your request and a USCIS officer will interview you again and will re-test you.
What happens after the test and interview?
Congratulations! You’re almost finished with the naturalization process. After you have completed the interview and citizenship test, you should expect to be provide with a decision on your naturalization application soon after or possibly on the same day of your interview (depending on the officer).
If your naturalization application is approved, you will be scheduled for an Oath Ceremony where you will take the Oath of Allegiance and get sworn in as a Citizen of the United States of America. Remember that even if your application is approved, you are not yet a U.S. citizen until you have taken the oath.
Call us at (312) 971-7221 if you are ready to take this final step in the immigration journey. We would be honored to represent you!