Navigating the Naturalization Process

Navigating the Naturalization Process

Navigating the naturalization process can be confusing. To get the best results, it is important to follow the steps correctly.

Applicants must pass a two-part interview and test, including an English exam and civics exam. They must also prove that they have “good moral character” and a firm understanding of the American government and history.

Residency Requirements

To become a naturalized citizen, you must have been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years, or three years if married to a United States citizen. In most cases, you must have been continuously residing in the US for this period unless you are able to overcome the presumption of break in continuity by demonstrating certain circumstances.

Continuous residence includes both physical and legal residency. The majority of your time must be spent at the permanent address you provided on your application. You may take some trips abroad, but not more than six months at a time.

Once you pass your biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment, USCIS will schedule your interview. At the interview, you will be asked questions about your answers on your citizenship application and must successfully complete a written test. The test consists of 100 civics questions, and you must answer at least 6 correctly to pass. It is best to study for this test in advance.

Knowledge of U.S. History and Government

Becoming a citizen requires a high level of knowledge about American history and government. It is no surprise that many Americans struggle with the basics: an Intercollegiate Studies Institute study in 2008 found that even recent college graduates couldn’t correctly answer basic questions about American history.

New citizens should familiarize themselves with the United States by reading, watching, and listening to American history and government. They should also understand the responsibilities of citizenship, which include obeying laws and respecting and honoring the Constitution.

National Archives has a wealth of resources for new citizens, including Founders Online, which includes original letters and documents to and from George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and other founding fathers. For additional resources, visit your local Free Library branch. The library offers a wide variety of events and classes to support New Americans. It is worth noting that while there can be errors in naturalization records, they cannot be corrected by the National Archives because they are historic documents that must be maintained as they were created.

Oath of Allegiance

Once USCIS has approved your naturalization application and you have passed the interview, the English and civics exam, you will be invited to attend a ceremony at which you will take the Oath of Allegiance. It is important to remember that you will not become a full United States citizen until you have taken this oath.

Once at the oath ceremony, you will receive a welcome packet, an American flag and Form M-76 (the “Citizen’s Almand”). You will then be asked to stand up and raise your right hand to recite the Oath of Allegiance in front of USCIS officials. Applicants should not worry about memorizing the Oath because USCIS provides it for them.

Those who do not want to or cannot swear the Oath because of religious beliefs can request that they be allowed to take a modified version of the Oath that excludes the words, “on oath” and, “so help me God.” Applicants who wish to be granted a waiver of this requirement must submit evidence in the form of passages of religious text, a letter from their faith organization’s leader and/or sworn affidavits.

Citizenship Interview

If USCIS approves your application, the next step is to schedule an interview and take a citizenship exam. The exam consists of two parts: a spoken interview and a civics test. Both are taken at your interview with a USCIS examiner. During the interview, you will be asked questions about your background, work experience, travel history and knowledge of U.S. history and government.

You should review your answers to the N-400, Application for Naturalization, before your interview so that you are familiar with your answers. Be sure to note any changes that have occurred since your original N-400 application, such as a divorce or new job.

You should arrive at the interview prepared to answer questions in English. If you cannot speak English, you may qualify for an exemption by filing Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions. You will also have the opportunity to bring a representative or an interpreter. If you bring a representative or attorney, they must sign Form G-28, “Notice of Appearance as Attorney or Representative,” and submit it to USCIS along with your application.