Obtaining US Citizenship through Naturalization

Naturalization is the legal process through which permanent residents of the United States can become citizens. One can obtain US citizenship if the following requirements are met:

  • Age: Applicants must be 18 years or older, although children may derive US citizenship through the naturalization of their parents;
  • Status: Applicants must have been a legal permanent resident of the US for a period of at least 5 years. Spouses of American citizens can apply for naturalization if they have held legal permanent resident status for at least 3 years and are still married to their American spouses;
  • Residency: Applicants must have maintained a period of continuous residency and physical presence in the United States over the 5 or 3 year periods, respectively. Physical presence means having spent at least 2.5 years out of 5 or 1.5 years out of 3 in the US. There is an exception to the physical presence requirement for spouses of US citizens posted overseas in the military or working overseas for a US company;
  • Language: An ability to read, write, and speak English;
  • History: A knowledge and understanding of US history and government;
  • Character: Good moral character and no criminal record (or minimal or dated criminal history);
  • Principles: An attachment to the principles of the US Constitution and favorable disposition toward the United States.

The Process of Naturalization

There are four steps in the process of naturalization:

Step 1: Submitting an Application. Applicants need to submit form N-400 to USCIS. Applicants must include photographs, a copy of their green card, and a check for the processing fee. People under the age of 75 must pay a fingerprinting fee.

Step 2: Criminal Background Check. Applicants are required to get fingerprints taken at a USCIS Application Support Center in order for a criminal background check to be completed.

Step 3: Interview. USCIS will schedule a naturalization interview. At the interview, a USCIS officer will explain the purpose of the interview, ask to see your identification, and place you under oath. He or she will ask you about: your background; evidence supporting your case; your place and length of residence; your character; your attachment to the Constitution; and your willingness to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States. The officer will administer a test on American history and civics, as well as a brief language test.

Step 4: Taking the Oath: If USCIS approves your application for naturalization, you must attend a ceremony and take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

How does White & Associates help?

We work proactively to uncover and correct any errors, inconsistencies, or roadblocks. We anticipate issues and concerns and fully prepare our clients for their interactions and interview with USCIS. In general, the naturalization application process is not a difficult one. However, USCIS does closely scrutinize individuals who

1. have had criminal issues
2. spent extended time outside the United States
3. worked outside the US after receiving a green card
4. have tax or financial problems
5. work in sensitive (e.g., science-related) industries
6. are Muslim or are from a Middle Eastern country or another “unfriendly” country
7. may be suspected of having obtained their permanent residency status through fraud (e.g., sham marriage).

We have the expertise and experience to help you prepare in advance to allay any USCIS concerns. We work in coordination with tax counsel to ensure tax issues or problems are addressed. We prepare explanations for prolonged absences to ensure that the officer does not make a finding of a break in continuous presence. For those with criminal incidents in their past, we help prepare testimonials to ensure that the applicant will meet the good moral character standard. Sometimes, there are extensive delays (more than one year) in processing naturalization applications and a mandamus lawsuit to compel the USCIS may be an appropriate solution. For those who have been naturalized, we provide legal support in obtaining Certificates of Citizenship for children under the age of 18.

We are here to advise you of your legal rights and options to ensure the timely, proper resolution of your naturalization application. Please contact us for more information.