Naturalization is the legal process by which a citizen of a foreign country becomes a United States citizen. Generally, an applicant for naturalization must have resided within the United States for a 5 year period as a permanent resident and must have maintained good moral character during that time.
The naturalization applicant is also required to be sufficient in English. They must be aware of the history and the laws of the United States.
Naturalization is the only way in which an individual can become a citizen of the United States if they were not born a citizen or if they did not acquire citizenship immediately following their birth. Only individuals who possess permanent visas, or green cards, are permitted to apply for naturalization.
Naturalization may be a complex and long process in some cases. Applicants are required to submit various documents and forms which prove their eligibility.
Individuals are United States citizens by birth if they were born within the boundaries of the United States, which includes territories such as:
- Puerto Rico; and
- The Virgin Islands.
Additionally, individuals who are born abroad can be United States citizens at birth if both of their parents are United States citizens at the time of their birth or if at least one parent resided in the United States at some point during their lifetime.
Also, an individual may be a United States citizen at birth if one of their parents is a United States citizen, which is subject to additional requirements.
What Does One Do to Become Naturalized?
In order to become a naturalized citizen of the United States, an individual must:
- Be qualified to apply for citizenship;
- Complete an application;
- Complete an interview which is conducted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); and
- Pass a naturalization test.
It is important to be aware that naturalization is different from dual citizenship, where an individual is a citizen of two countries at the same time.
What is Required to Become a Naturalized Citizen?
There are several requirements an individual must meet in order to become a naturalized citizen of the United States, including:
- The ability to read, write, and speak English;
- A knowledge about and understanding of United States history and government;
- Good moral character;
- An attachments to the ideals of the Constitution of the United States;
- A favorable disposition towards the U.S.; and
- A continued residence or physical presence in the United States for a specified period.
An applicant may submit their Application for Naturalization, or Form N-400, to the proper United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) center. In addition, the applicant should also submit any documents as well as other additional information which has been requested.
Applicants should ensure to make copies of their application as well as any documents which are submitted for their records. Applicants should not send in their original documents with the application unless they require an original signature.
What is a Naturalization Test?
The final step to becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States is a naturalization test, also referred to as the citizenship exam. Once an application passes this test, they will take their Oath of Allegiance.
The purpose of this test is to determine whether or not the applicant meets the English and Civics requirements to become a naturalized citizen. Language and civics are the two basic components of the naturalization test.
What is the English Proficiency Test?
The language component of the naturalization test examines the individual’s English language proficiency. It tests the applicant’s abilities related to the English language, including:
- Speaking; and
The individual’s ability to speak English is determined by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer during the applicant’s interview. For the reading portion, the applicant is required to read one out of three sentences correctly.
For the writing portion, the applicant is required to write one out of three sentences correctly.
Am I Required to take the English Proficiency Test?
An applicant may be exempt from taking the English proficiency test under certain circumstances, including:
- The applicant:
- is 50 years or older;
- has a valid green card; and
- has lived in the United States for at least 20 years; or
- The applicant:
- is 55 years or older;
- has a valid green card; and
- has resided in the United States for at least 15 years.
It is important to note that an individual cannot be exempt from the civics portion.
What is the Civics Test?
The civics portion of the naturalization exam tests the applicant’s knowledge of United States history and government. During the applicant’s naturalization interview, a USCIS officer will ask 10 civics questions from a list of 100 questions.
In order to pass this portion, the applicant is required to answer 6 of the 10 questions correctly. These questions are not multiple choice.
Sample questions may include:
- Who is the current U.S. President?;
- What is the name of the current U.S. Vice President?;
- What is the political party of the current United States President?;
- How many U.S. Senators are there?;
- What are the first 10 Constitutional Amendments called?; and
- What branch of government is the President the head of?.
What if I do not Pass my Naturalization Exam?
Every applicant is provided 2 opportunities to pass the naturalization exam. If an individual fails any of the tests, they may be retested on that portion of the test between 60 and 90 days from the date of their initial interview.
If the individual passes one part of the exam but not the other, for example, they pass the English portion but fail the Civics exam, they can take the portion of the exam which they did not pass within the required time frame.
What are the Benefits of Naturalization?
There are numerous benefits for an individual who becomes naturalized, including the rights to:
- Register and vote;
- Hold a United States passport; and
- Serve on a jury.
What if My Naturalization Application is Denied?
If an individual’s naturalization appeal is denied, they may appeal the denial and request an administrative review of their application, which includes a hearing with an immigration officer. The denial letter will include details of the process as well as the paperwork requirements, such as Form N-336.
Additionally, an individual may be permitted to reapply at a later time. Although the applicant will have already submitted a complete application, they will be required to:
- Submit a new application form;
- Pay the application fee; and
- Retake any required photographs and fingerprints.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Naturalization Test?
The naturalization test is an important step in the application process for United States citizenship. The outcome of an individual’s naturalization test determines whether or not they are eligible for U.S. citizenship.
If you or a loved one has any issues, questions, or concerns related to the naturalization process, it may be helpful to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to explain the applicable laws and requirements, as well as assist you in ensuring your paperwork is complete.
If you are required to appear before a government agency or in court, your lawyer will represent you. Having the assistance of a lawyer will help ensure your naturalization application process goes as smoothly as possible.