From Green Card to Citizenship: Navigating the Naturalization Process
April 21st, 2023
If you are eligible for U.S. citizenship, this can be a very exciting time for you and your family. While having a green card can allow you to live and work legally in the United States, naturalization allows you to become a U.S. citizen and enjoy the benefits that come with it. However, the path to naturalization can be extremely complex and difficult to navigate. There are various steps and nuanced regulations involved in the process of becoming a citizen of the United States of America.
What’s the Difference Between a Green Card and Citizenship?
Having a green card, also known as a “permanent resident card,” allows a non-U.S. citizen to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. The steps that must be followed to apply for a green card depend upon the facts and circumstances of your specific immigration situation. But while there are similarities between owning a green card and citizenship, it’s important to understand the differences.
Obtaining a green card is the first step in the naturalization process. Although a green card gives a holder many rights, U.S. citizenship comes with a number of benefits that are not available to those with permanent resident status. Once a green card holder has become a citizen, they are also permitted to vote in every election, apply for certain loans, and work as a federal employee.
What is the Naturalization Process?
Naturalization is the process by which a foreign national becomes a United States citizen. However, only certain immigrants are eligible for citizenship through the naturalization process. There are specific requirements that must be met in order to begin the naturalization process and obtain citizenship, including the following:
- You must be 18 or older
- You must have possessed a green card for five or more years
- You must have been a lawful permanent resident for the past three or five years (depending on which naturalization category you are applying under)
- You must have continuous residence and physical presence in the United States
- You must be able to read, write, and speak basic English
- You must demonstrate strong moral character
- You must show that you have knowledge of U.S. history and government
- You must demonstrate that you are loyal to the principles of the U.S. Constitution
- You must be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance
There are certain exceptions to the above criteria. For instance, you can apply for naturalization after having your green card for only three years if you are still married to the spouse through whom you obtained your green card. In addition, if your legal parents became citizens before your 18th birthday, you would not need to go through the naturalization process — you would automatically gain your U.S. citizenship through a parent who is now a U.S. citizen if you already have a green card and live with them. The naturalization process is also simplified if you are a member of the U.S. military.
How to Apply for Citizenship After Green Card
The first step in applying for United States citizenship is completing the Form N-400, which is the application for naturalization. While it can sometimes take a considerable amount of time for the Department of Homeland Security to process this paperwork, it’s important to ensure your application is correct and all necessary documents have been submitted to avoid delay.
The second step in the naturalization process is attending a biometrics appointment. You will receive a letter specifying when and where your appointment will occur, during which time you will have your fingerprints, signature, and photograph taken. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses the information obtained at the biometrics appointment to conduct a background check with the FBI. Be sure to bring any valid government issued ID, along with all applicable documents to avoid having to reschedule your appointment.
After your biometrics appointment, you will be scheduled for a citizenship interview and test. The USCIS uses the interview to confirm information about you and to ensure you are of good moral character. The citizenship test is scheduled for the same day as the interview — first you will take the test, and your interview will be conducted after you have passed the test. The citizenship test includes English language skills and civics portions. It’s crucial to prepare for the exam in advance so that you pass and can avoid having to return and retake the test at a later time.
If there are no issues with your application, it will usually be approved on the same date the interview and test were conducted. In the event your application was denied, you can appeal the decision within 30 days of receiving the denial letter or reapply in the future.
The final step in the naturalization process is taking the Oath of Allegiance. This ceremony may occur on the same day as the interview and exam, but in many cases, it is scheduled a few weeks later. At the ceremony, you will receive your certificate of naturalization and be provided with information on how to register to vote and apply for a U.S. passport. Failure to appear more than once for the ceremony can result in denial of your application — taking the Oath of Allegiance is a mandatory part of the citizenship process and attendance is required.
Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney
If you are facing an immigration matter, it’s essential to have a knowledgeable attorney by your side who can help you navigate the U.S. immigration system. Located in Needham, Massachusetts, Krispin Law assists individuals and their families nationwide and internationally with a wide variety of immigration issues, including the green card to naturalization process. To learn more about how our law firm can represent you and your family in your immigration needs, we invite you to contact Krispin Law to schedule a consultation by calling (617) 421-9090. We offer both in-person and virtual consultations for your convenience.
Categories: Immigration Law