If a person is not a U.S. citizen by birth, he or she may be eligible for U.S. citizenship through a process called naturalization. Citizenship is accompanied by several rights and responsibilities.
Application and interview
In general, a person must be at least 18 years old and must have been a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. for at least 5 years to qualify for naturalization. The time frame is reduced to 3 years if the person is married to a U.S. citizen. The applicant must also have good moral character.
He or she must submit an application for naturalization to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which includes supporting documentation to demonstrate his or her eligibility. The applicant must also complete a background check, which includes having their fingerprints and photograph taken by USCIS.
Once all of the basic portions of the process are completed, USCIS will schedule an interview with the applicant. During the interview, a USCIS representative will ask questions and the applicant will take an English and civics test, unless he or she is exempt. In some situations, USCIS may ask the applicant to provide additional information or will request a second interview.
USCIS will either approve the application if the person’s record establishes his or her eligibility for naturalization or will deny it if it does not. If the application is approved, the person will receive a notice to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. Once this is complete, the person will receive a certificate of naturalization.
If the application is denied, the person can request a hearing to appeal the decision, but there are time limits to do so. An experienced immigration attorney can provide representation and advice.