Casas Immigration , Ltd.

Casas Immigration , Ltd. visas, Temporary Status, Citizenship

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?

  • Be at least 18 years old when you file and submit Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization)
  • Have been a lawful permanent resident of the United States for at least 5 years (or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen that entire time)
  • Prove that you have lived in the U.S. state or USCIS district to which you are applying for at least 3 months
  • Prove that you have lived continuously in the United States for at least 5 years prior to the date of filing Form N-400
  • Prove that you have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years prior to the date of filing Form N-400
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
  • Have a basic understanding of both U.S. history and the U.S government system (civics)
  • Be a person of “good moral character”

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:

  • Speaking:  where the USCIS officer will ask the applicant a series of questions in the naturalization interview and determine if the applicant has the necessary ability to speak English. It’s a good idea to review the answers on your application prior to attending your exam appointment.
  • Reading: where the applicant will be asked to read no more than 3 sentences off of a digital tablet. It’s important to avoid pausing extensively while reading aloud. Generally, you’ll be allowed to leave out short words, mispronounce some words, or use non-standard intonation (the rising and falling of a person’s voice). The important thing is to convey to the immigration officer that you understand the meaning of the sentence.
  • Writing:  where the applicant will be asked to write no more than 3 sentences on a digital tablet with a stylus (digital pen). Generally, you will be allowed to misspell some words and make some capitalization, grammatical, or punctuation errors. You also must write legibly. The immigration officer will keep moving on to the next sentence until you’ve written one successfully.

Civics Component

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

  • Start studying now. This might seem obvious, but the sooner you begin familiarizing yourself with the questions and answers in the citizenship test, the more time you’ll have to learn and memorize the information. Starting early will also give you more opportunities to work on particular areas of weakness. 
  • Quiz yourself with flashcards with vocabulary words or civics test questions written on them. Have your friends or family give you practice writing tests where they say a sentence and you practice writing it down.
  • Read as much as you can in English. Read whatever you love to read: newspapers, books, magazines, comic books, etc. It doesn’t matter what you read as long as it is written in English. For beginners who struggle with English, children’s books are a great start.
  • Take a practice test. There are many online to choose from and many are free of charge.
  • Watch your favorite English-language television shows, documentaries, and films. For extra help, put the English subtitles below. This will help with your reading, grammar, and comprehension.
  • Stay updated with the news. Some questions on the civics test will ask you questions regarding the current politicians in office so it’s important to keep informed with the latest information.
  • Speak English whenever and wherever you can with whomever you can. Speak it at home with your family, when out and about with your friends, when at work and out running errands. The more you speak, the more confident you’ll be in the 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!