Naturalization: The Process of Becoming a U.S. Citizen

By: Salma Benkabbou, Esq.

The Millennial Business Lawyer®

While many people come to the United States to each year as immigrants, not all choose to pursue naturalization. This involves the process of becoming an actual citizen, with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it. Naturalization can be a long and confusing process, but our Tampa immigration lawyer is here to help. The following outlines the requirements for becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S. and the steps involved in the process.

Qualifying for Naturalization

There are numerous options for coming to the United States. Many come with the intent to work, others to go to school, or to reunite with other family members. Naturalization can be seen as the culmination of the process of obtaining a visa, visiting the country, living, and working here while developing ties in the community, and finally taking an oath of allegiance and claiming it as your own.

The process for becoming a
citizen of the United States can take years to complete. The first step is determining whether you qualify. Applicants must have a valid Permanent Resident card, otherwise known as a green card, for at least five years before applying or three years if you are the spouse of a current U.S. resident. Additional eligibility requirements include:

  • All applicants must be at least 18 years old at the time you apply for naturalization;
  • Applicants must be able to read, write, and speak basic English;
  • You must have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government;
  • You must show an attachment to the U.S. Constitution, and the principles under which the United States was founded;
  • You must be a person of good moral character, with no history of deviant behavior or convictions for felony crimes over the prior five-year period.

Applicants must also meet certain residency requirements, which includes being in the U.S. continuously for close to three of the past five years and being a resident of the state in which you file for at least three months.

Steps in the Naturalization Process

U.S. Custom and Immigration Services (USCIS) outlines the path to citizenship in the pamphlet 10 Steps to Naturalization. If you have determined that you qualify to become a citizen of the United States, the following steps need to be taken:

  • Filing form N-400, Application for Naturalization with the appropriate supporting documents.
  • Submitting to bio-metrics, which involves being fingerprinted and photographed for the purpose of running a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background check and paying the required fees.
  • Attending an in-person interview with the USCIS, unless exempt, and taking both and English and Civics exam.

Once the above steps are completed, applicants will be notified of whether the application was approved or denied. If a denial was believed to be issued in error, the applicant may appeal the decision.

Consult with a Tampa Immigration Lawyer

At the Benkabbou Law Firm, PLLC, we are here to guide you through every step of the naturalization process. Reach out to a Tampa immigration lawyer to request a consultation about your case and how we can help you.