Citizenship generally refers to the status or position given to a citizen of a particular nation. Thus, when a person obtains U.S. citizenship, it means they have formally been sworn-in as a citizen of the United States. Having U.S. citizenship status also means that the individual will be granted many of the same legal rights and privileges afforded to those who were originally born and reside in the United States.

An individual who acquires U.S. citizenship will have the right to vote in U.S. elections, run for certain types of political offices in the U.S., and be allowed to live and work on a permanent basis in the United States. An individual with U.S. citizenship status will also be able to live overseas and travel outside of the United States and its territories for extended periods of time.

A person who has U.S. citizenship will also receive the full protections afforded to U.S. citizens under the Constitution of the United States, as well as other applicable state and federal laws. However, a person who obtains U.S. citizenship will also be required to uphold a number of essential legal duties, such as paying state and federal taxes, enlisting in the military to fight on behalf of the U.S., and/or serving on a jury panel if selected for jury duty.

One other crucial factor to note about obtaining U.S. citizenship is that it is primarily attained in one of two ways: either through the process of naturalization or by simply being born on U.S. soil. A person whose parents are both U.S. citizens may also be granted U.S. citizenship if they were born abroad and can satisfy the other legal requirements listed under the statute.

Finally, it is important to understand that it is not always easy for foreign-born nationals to obtain U.S. citizenship. There are various stages to the process and many timing requirements. An applicant will also need to take the U.S. citizenship exam and possibly have to schedule and attend an interview with the U.S. immigration authorities.

Therefore, it may be in your best interest to hire an immigration law attorney if you are ready to submit an application to become a citizen of the United States. A lawyer will be able to address any issues that you encounter throughout this complex process. A lawyer can also help you to fill out forms and can ensure that your application does not contain any errors. Additionally, a lawyer can explain any requirements that are confusing or unclear to you.

What Are Some Common Citizenship Questions?

Many of the questions that are posed to foreign-born nationals during the process of becoming a U.S. citizen have to do with progression towards naturalization. Briefly, naturalization is the process in which a foreign-born national renounces their allegiance to their country of origin and completes all of the steps necessary to achieving the full status of a U.S. citizen.

Accordingly, some common U.S. citizenship questions that may be asked during this stage of the process of naturalization include the following inquiries:

  • Requirements for U.S. citizenship: The primary requirement for naturalization in most instances is that a foreign-born national must have been a lawful permanent resident (i.e., a green card holder) of the United States for at least five years before they begin the process of naturalization. Thus, an applicant must be able to answer yes to this question in order to start becoming naturalized.
  • Age requirements: All foreign-born nationals must be at least 18 years of age before they can fill out the forms and apply to become a U.S. citizen. Again, a foreign-born national must provide proof of their age at this stage in the naturalization process.
  • Residency requirements: A foreign-born national must also comply with the residency requirements before they can submit their naturalization application. This means that an applicant must have been living in the United States for at least two and a half of the years out of the initial five-year requirement as a lawful permanent resident, or else their application will likely be rejected.
  • Requirements to show “good character”: A foreign-born national must prove that they possess good and moral character traits before they can move on to the next stage of the naturalization process. This means that an applicant must demonstrate that they do not have any serious crimes on their criminal record or even have a criminal record at all.
    • It also means they must show that they do not currently pose a “burden” on the state (e.g., that they do not collect government benefits or rely on other forms of welfare support).
  • Application requirements: A foreign-born national must provide certain documentation when submitting their naturalization form, such as their green card, two copies of passport-style pictures of themselves, some biographical information, and any paperwork that involves a request for a name change.
    • The U.S. immigration authorities may also request that an applicant submit additional documentation as necessary like a marriage certificate if they are married to a U.S. citizen or any documents related to military service duties.

To find out more about the types of questions that may be asked on the forms to become a U.S. citizen, a prospective applicant can visit the website for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) agency and/or contact an immigration law attorney in their area for further legal guidance.

What Is a Citizenship Interview?

Although not every foreign-born national may need to attend a citizenship interview with the U.S. immigration authorities as part of the naturalization process, many foreign-born nationals are often notified to schedule and attend a citizenship interview. In general, the purpose of the citizenship interview is to assist in providing supplemental information about a particular applicant to the U.S. immigration authorities.

The U.S. immigration authorities can also use the information provided during an applicant’s interview to make sure that what an applicant is saying corresponds with the results of their background check. In most instances, the citizenship interview will take place approximately 90 days after an individual’s application for naturalization is submitted and processed by the authorities.

In addition to a background check and a citizenship interview with U.S. immigration authorities, an applicant will also need to pass the U.S. citizenship test before the last stage of the naturalization process.

Briefly, the U.S. citizenship exam tests a foreign-born national’s civic knowledge on the history and government of the United States, as well as their command of the English language. In some cases, an applicant may be able to qualify for an exception and thus will be exempt from taking either one or both portions of the U.S. citizenship test.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Citizenship Issues?

There are many issues that can arise when applying for U.S. citizenship. There are lots of different procedural requirements as well as various immigration laws to comply with throughout each step of the process. As such, it may be in your best interest to contact a local immigration lawyer in your county if you or a loved one encounters an issue involving the process to become a citizen of the United States.

A qualified immigration lawyer will be able to provide insightful legal advice and can help you navigate the different stages of the application process. Your lawyer can also review your materials and final application before you submit it for processing by the U.S. immigration authorities. This can help to ensure that you do not experience any delays and that your application does not contain any errors or is missing information.

In addition, your lawyer will also be able to accompany you to any interviews that are scheduled with U.S. immigration authorities as well as will be able to provide legal representation in immigration law court. Lastly, if you have any other questions or concerns about becoming a U.S. citizen, your lawyer will be able to address all of your questions and concerns before continuing with and completing the remainder of the application process.