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5 FAQs about applying for U.S. citizenship

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2024 | Immigration

Many United States immigrants dream of becoming citizens. Those considering naturalization often have a lot of questions about the process.

Learning the answers to the five frequently asked questions (FAQs) below could help immigrants determine if naturalization is a viable option for them or a member of their family.

Who qualifies for immigration?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has several key requirements for naturalization. The immigrant must be at least 18 years old. They must have at least five years of lawful permanent residence in most cases. They also need to maintain continuous residence in the United States for five years and physical presence for 30 months of those five years. They must have good moral character and willingly take an oath to support the United States Constitution and government.

How long does naturalization take?

The wait time for naturalization depends on the volume of applications the USCIS must process. It can range from as little as six months to two years or longer in some cases.

Does naturalization involve another background check?

Almost all applications submitted to the USCIS result in another background check. Rechecking someone’s criminal records during naturalization helps identify individuals who may have faced disqualifying criminal charges while living in the United States. Naturalization does require that an immigrant be of good moral character, so infractions during their time in the country could affect their eligibility for citizenship.

What happens during the naturalization interview?

Someone who theoretically passes the application stage of naturalization must attend an interview. At that interview, USCIS workers may ask applicants about why they want to become a citizen. They may ask about what they did while living in the country and what plans they have for the future. They may expect the immigrant to clarify any details that are uncertain based on their application. They also administer two tests. The immigrant needs to pass a test on United States Civics and prove their proficiency in English.

What happens if someone fails their tests?

The naturalization tests intimidate many people. Individuals worry that if they fail the tests, they might face removal from the United States. Thankfully, there are no punishments for failing the tests. In fact, the USCIS generally allows people an opportunity to retake the test one time after failing. In the rare case where someone fails twice, they would not be able to complete the naturalization process. However, they would still have the option of reapplying in the future.

When people have more specific or unusual questions, they may need to sit down to discuss naturalization with a lawyer. Depending on their circumstances, learning more about becoming a citizen may inspire many people to finally begin the process.