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What Is the Process for US Citizenship?

Swearing an oath of loyalty to the United States is required to become a citizen.
In many cases, the immigration process begins with the submission of an application along with documentation supporting the applicant's request.
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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 August 2014
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Anyone who wishes to attain US citizenship must complete a multistep process known as naturalization. Prior to beginning the naturalization process, the applicant must first meet certain residency and language requirements. If the applicant satisfies these prerequisites, he can start the citizenship process by filing a naturalization application. After his application has been filed, he must then complete an interview and a test. Once he has successfully fulfilled all of these requirements, he will then attend a ceremony in which he is officially sworn in as a US citizen.

Before beginning the naturalization process, the applicant must check that he satisfies certain prerequisites, many of which are related to residency. He must have been a legal permanent resident of the US for at least five years — three years if he is married to a US citizen — before applying. In addition, he must have been physically present in the US for at least half of this legal residency period. Further, he must have been resident in the state in which he will file his citizenship application for at least three months.

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Additionally, the applicant must be at least 18 years of age and have a basic command of the English language. He must also be willing to declare loyalty to the United States at the time of naturalization. It should be noted that many countries allow for dual citizenship, however, and thus this declaration of loyalty to the US will not necessarily void his citizenship in the country of his birth.

Even if an applicant fulfills these requirements, there are certain things which may jeopardize his naturalization eligibility. For instance, he cannot have willfully deceived an immigration official, neglected to pay outstanding US taxes, or voted in a US election. While these offenses may not irrevocably bar an applicant from citizenship, if he has committed one or more of them he should consult an immigration lawyer before commencing the application process.

Once the applicant has verified his eligibility, he can complete and file a naturalization application. This form is available from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. The application must be accompanied by a check for processing and fingerprinting fees. After your application form has been processed, you will be instructed to appear at your local USCIS office or other specified location for electronic fingerprinting.

Next, you will be invited to an interview with the USCIS. During this meeting, your interviewer will double-check your naturalization eligibility and your control of the English language. He will also try to confirm that you are a person of good moral standing, with a genuine desire to become a loyal US citizen.

During this appointment you will in most cases also take a written exam. This exam will test your knowledge of US history, government, and citizenship duties. In addition, it will allow reviewers to further evaluate your understanding of the English language.

If the USCIS determines that you have successfully fulfilled all requirements, you will be invited to a swearing-in ceremony. During this ceremony, you will turn in your permanent residence card and then swear an oath of loyalty to the US. You will then be issued a naturalization certificate. At this point you have officially become a US citizen.

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