For many, becoming a citizen of the United States is a big step towards a more certain legal and financial future. Citizenship brings with it many benefits for those who obtain it, as well as members of their family, and can provide a multi-generational advantage when it comes to education and opportunities. The process to become a US citizen has never been a truly simple one, and so much in the news recently shout immigration and naturalization; many are not sure what changes have taken place within USCIS and whether the requirements have changed. In this article, we will look at the requirements for immigration and naturalization in the United States as of 2020, as well as touch on some of the general benefits that citizenship entails.
Being a citizen means that you are a part of a broader community united around civic ideals, rights, and a shared path towards the future. Citizenship is the bond that all Americans have in common and guarantees their freedoms and protections under the US Constitution. Choosing to become a US citizen is a giant step in one’s life, and the process may differ slightly depending on your circumstances.
Naturalization is the method by which one who is not born a US citizen can obtain citizenship. A naturalized citizen is given a lawful permanent resident once they meet the requirements put forward by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Not every US immigrant is eligible for naturalization.
Benefits of U.S. Citizenship
There are many benefits to receiving your U.S. citizenship. Some of these benefits are obvious, while others are more difficult to quantify. Some of the key benefits of U.S. Citizenship include:
- Having a U.S. Passport: U.S. citizens are eligible to receive a United States Passport, which are considered the most useful passports in the world for easy travel and overseas security.
- Allowed to Vote in US Elections: You will be allowed to vote and have a say in the governance of your state and country. Learning how to become a US citizen who appreciates both the principles of the country and the role they can play in shaping them is important.
- Easier Access to Work: Being a U.S. citizen opens the doors to thousands of federal and local jobs that would otherwise be unavailable. Many federal benefits and work assistance programs are only available to U.S. citizens. Naturalized citizens tend to earn on average, 70% more than non-naturalized members of the community.
- Legal Security and Protection: U.S. citizens have many more rights and cannot be made to leave the country for any reason. Family reunification programs mean that your family now has a more natural path to citizenship. Children under eighteen automatically become citizens when their parents naturalize.
Of course, many other benefits are not quite so tangible. Patriotism and a sense of national pride in the United States and its values are also common factors in determining who will choose to become naturalized.
How to become a Citizen of the United States: Naturalization Requirements
In order to be naturalized, foreign nationals must meet these requirements but forward by USCIS and other federal agencies.
The typical avenues for how to become a citizen of the United States are:
- Be a permanent US resident for 5+ years. Permanent resident status refers to having a permanent resident (Green) card for at least five years.
- Marry a U.S. Citizen, Be a permanent US resident for 3+ years. The residency requirement is for at least three years if you’re filing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen.
- Serve in the U.S. Military
- Be a child of a U.S. Citizen
Eligibility requirements for the naturalization process includes:
- Must be 18 years old to apply: You must be an adult to apply for naturalization.
- Able to speak, read, and write in basic English.
- Applicants for naturalization will be tested on their ability to read and write in basic English.
- Elderly applicants and those with a longtime permanent status may be able to waive the language requirements.
- No excessive criminal charges (“Good moral character”): For most non-violent felonies, you will need to wait five years after the incident to apply for citizenship. Aggravated or violent felonies typically prohibit your entrance into the country. It is ultimately up to the discretion of USCIS officers if you are admitted.
- U.S. Government Knowledge: When becoming naturalized, you must show a basic understanding of US history, principles, and how the government functions. Some exceptions can be made for those with learning impairments.
- Willing to Take an Oath of Allegiance and Constitutional ‘Attachment’: You must declare your support for the U.S. Constitution. You will declare your “attachment” to the U.S. and the Constitution. Some religious exceptions can be made.
Once it is determined that you are eligible to become a US citizen, you will then begin to prepare to complete the full naturalization process.
Common Questions About the US Naturalization Process
How Long Does it Take to Become a US citizen?
There is no simple answer to “How long does it take to become a US citizen?”. You can expect the process to become a US citizen to take somewhere between six months to a year. So what is the average time to become a US citizen? The average time to become a US Citizen is about 8 months.
How Hard is it to become a US Citizen?
Successfully following all of the steps to become a US citizen can be challenging, but is far from impossible. As long as you meet the necessary criteria to apply, every resource you need is available to you in some accessible format. Companies like The Spanish Group specialize in working with those needing to meet USCIS requirements.
Many spend weeks wondering, “how hard is it to become a US citizen?” and wrongfully assume the worst. If you meet all the requirements and utilize professionals to assist you with your paperwork, you have a roughly 90% chance of passing the tests after some careful study.
What do you need to become a US Citizen?
If you meet the naturalization requirements, you can find out more about the next steps and precisely what you need to become a US citizen by reading the 5 Steps to Naturalization (link to another article)
How Much Does it Cost to Become a US Citizen?
It is hard to answer those who ask how much does it cost to become a US citizen with a hard number. The amount you will pay will depend on a few essential factors. Your age, for example, will dictate if you need to pay for a biometrics test (everyone under 75 does). Prior military service will also exempt you from needing to pay the filing fee and the biometrics fee. Typically speaking, you should expect to pay $85 for the biometrics services and $640 for the other processing fees. That is a total of $725 you can likely expect to pay.