How Long Does It Take to Become a U.S. Citizen?

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How Long Does It Take to Become a U.S. Citizen?

Many people who become lawful permanent residents (green card holders) have the ultimate goal of becoming naturalized U.S. citizens. Obtaining a green card is not easy to begin with, and even though becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen is relatively easier, many who apply still get their applications denied for various reasons. Besides worrying about whether their application for citizenship will be approved, a question we often get at Kriezelman Burton & Associates Chicago office is how long it takes to become a U.S. citizen. We are based in Chicago, but also take cases in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Before answering that question, it is important to first understand the eligibility criteria and the process one must go through to become a U.S. citizen.

Eligibility for Naturalization

A person not born in the United States or its territories can only become a U.S. citizen through naturalization, a process of applying for citizenship for noncitizens who meet the eligibility requirements. Before applying, however, one must make sure they meet the eligibility requirements for naturalization, which are as follows:

  • Must be at least 18 years of age when sending your application 
  • Must have been a green card holder for 3 or 5 years, depending on what category one is applying under 
  • Must prove physical presence that has been continuous and residence in the United States
  • Must be able to read, write, and speak basic English
  • Must show good moral character 
  • Must show an understanding of basic U.S. government and history
  • Must show loyalty to the U.S. Constitution; and
  • Must be ready and willing to take the Oath of Allegiance.

The Naturalization Process

The process of naturalization is started by accurately completing and submitting the N-400 Application for Naturalization to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Although the application might seem fairly straightforward, it is not. For this reason, it is in your interest if you are applying for naturalization to have an experienced immigration attorney assist in the preparation and filing of the naturalization application package. 

An experienced immigration lawyer will not only have an error-free and complete naturalization application package filed for you, but they will also know what to look for in terms of issues in your case and have them addressed before filing – or address them in the filing itself. Doing so will be much better for you instead of being surprised by the issues at the time of your interview or even before your application is reviewed by a USCIS officer.

Once your application is submitted to USCIS, the following will take place:

  1. Biometrics. You will receive an appointment to have your fingerprints taken
  2. Interview. You will be interviewed by an immigration officer 
  3. Citizenship Test. You will be tested on knowledge of government and English
  4. Naturalization Ceremony. If all the above steps are successful, next is the ceremony
  5. Citizenship Conferred. At the conclusion of the ceremony, you become a U.S. citizen.

If you are in the Chicago area and are thinking about applying for citizenship or if you have applied already, we can help you to make sure the application is processed without unnecessary delay or denial. Contact us today and schedule a consultation.