Citizenship: A complex process
By Carolyn Hauck
Posted in: Legal
Applying for citizenship can be a very daunting task. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website does a nice job of outlining the 10 steps to U.S. citizenship. While that is the official page that someone who is applying citizenship needs to follow, we’ll explain a few of the terms and instructions here in this article. Again, while the USCIS has done well to put it in a 10-step process, we found ourselves curious about what certain terms and requirements were; and that’s coming from U.S. citizens. It should also be noted that the USCIS calls it a 10-step process, but really the application involves submitting the proper forms and documents, and being present at any appointments or interviews required by the USCIS.
Step 1 + 2: Determine if you are a citizen and eligible to become a U.S. citizen
You are either a U.S. citizen by birth or you obtained citizenship through your parents, which is called acquired or derived citizenship. You have to obtain acquired or derived citizenship before you are 18 years old. The USCIS explains how that is done here.
The USCIS provides a checklist for this called the naturalization worksheet. The term naturalization refers to the process of becoming a citizen. It is sometimes used interchangeably with citizenship on the USCIS website, but know it is referring to the process of becoming a citizen. If English is not your first language, this worksheet should be done with a native or fluent speaker.
Step 3 + 4: Fill out and submit the N-400 Application
The N-400 application is 21 pages long and involves 13 instructions. In addition to filling it out, you will need 2 passport style photos and to collect the required documents. Find links to the N-400 and all required documents here.
You will get a receipt once you submit the form. You can check current processing times and the status of your application online or by calling the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or 1-800-767-1833 (hearing impaired).
Step 5 +6: Go to the biometrics appointment and be interviewed
You may or may not be required to go to a biometrics appointment. Biometrics simply refers to taking your fingerprints, or other forms of human identification like DNA samples.
Everyone needs to be interviewed. The USCIS will schedule an interview and you must report to it on the day and time it is scheduled.
The decision process and final steps
You will receive a written decision in one of the 3 categories: Granted, Continued or Denied.
If Granted, you will receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
If Continued, you may have made an error on one of the forms, need to answer follow-up questions, etc.
If Denied, the USCIS has decided that you are not eligible to be a citizen.
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