What is Naturalization?
Naturalization is one of the ways through which someone becomes a US citizen. Other than birthright citizenship, the naturalization process is the only other way a person can acquire US citizenship.
Naturalized citizens have nearly all of the same rights and responsibilities as US born citizens, including the benefits provided by a US passport, the right to vote in elections, and the possibility of being drafted into the military. Additionally, children (under 18) of naturalized citizens automatically receive US citizenship through their parents.
US Naturalization Eligibility
In order to begin the naturalization process, candidates must meet the following US naturalization requirements.
- Age Limit: Must be 18 or older (those under 18 may get citizenship through one or both parents).
- Education & Literacy: Must be able to speak, read, and write basic English.
- Moral Character: Must be able to show positive moral character, in general (for example, evidence of habitual drunkenness or having committed perjury would show poor moral character).
- Green Card: Most applicants need to have a green card (permanent resident status) for five years.
- Physical Presence: Most applicants must be physically present in the United States for five years.
Depending on the naturalization category under which you are applying, you must meet other naturalization eligibility requirements.
The Naturalization Process
The US naturalization process consists of three main steps.
- Apply for US naturalization.
- Attend naturalization interview.
- Take Oath of Allegiance.
Applying for Naturalization
The US naturalization process begins by applying for naturalization. The applicant must file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, submitting two photographs, any additional required documents, an application fee, and a fingerprinting fee along with the application.
Once USCIS reviews the initial application, which takes up to six months, the applicant is notified of a place and time to get fingerprinted.
After USCIS completes the criminal background check, the agency will schedule a date and time for the naturalization interview at the USCIS office nearest the applicant. Applicants must bring to their naturalization interview a state-issued identification (such as a driver’s license) and their green card (permanent resident card).
The interview consists of questions about the applicant’s background and information on the application, as well as questions about US civics and a basic English language test. The test may include questions about the US Constitution, how the President is elected, or how laws are made, for example.
Oath of Allegiance and Naturalization Ceremony
The final step in the naturalization process is taking the oath of allegiance, in which the applicant declares his or her loyalty to the United States as a citizen. At this time, the newly naturalized citizen will give up their green card.
To determine if you are eligible to apply for naturalization, visit Naturalization Eligibility for complete details on the naturalization requirements.
Newly naturalized US citizens who are persons of Indian origin must surrender their Indian passport within 90 days of their naturalization. This will involve the renunciation of Indian citizenship and the acquisition of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card as India doesn’t permit dual citizenship.