US Citizenship and Immigration Services document on American flag

How to Apply for US Citizenship in 10 Steps

US Citizenship Requirements

If you are a lawful permanent resident for at least 5 years, you may obtain US citizenship through a process called naturalization. In other words, if you’ve had a green card for 5 years or more, you could be eligible to file for citizenship. Naturalization is the most common path to citizenship, but it is not a simple process. As you may already know, the US immigration system is complicated and flawed, which is why you must follow all 10 steps in the naturalization process closely.

For the best chances of completing each step accurately and obtaining citizenship, you should consider hiring an immigration lawyer. When you do, you will have the legal representation and guidance needed to help you get through the process as smoothly as possible.

With this in mind, the process of becoming a US citizen consists of the 10 steps below:

Determine if you are already a US citizen: If you are not a US citizen by birth or did not acquire citizenship automatically after birth, skip to step 2.

Determine if you are eligible to become a US citizen: Depending on the circumstances of your particular circumstances, the following eligibility criteria may apply to you. Keep in mind this is NOT a complete list of the criteria and some exceptions may apply:

  • You are at least 18
  • You have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years or 3 to 5 years
    • People who are permanent residents for 3 to 5 years must be married and living with a US citizen for the past 3 years at least, and have not left the US for 18 months or more during the last 3 years
  • You can read, write, and speak English (exceptions apply)
  • You have good moral character
  • You know the fundamentals of US history and its government
  • You support the US Constitution

Prepare Form N-400, Application for Naturalization: Form N-400 requires an extensive list of documents that your lawyer can help you gather and complete.

Submit your Form N-400 and pay fees: Before submitting your Form N-400, review it closely to ensure the information is correct. Any minor mistake could result in denial of citizenship. You should also pay your fees right away to best avoid getting denied.

If applicable, attend your biometrics appointment: You may be required to submit biometric data such as your fingerprints, photograph, and signature.

Complete the interview: After all the above steps are complete, you will attend a scheduled interview at a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. During the naturalization interview, you will be asked about your citizenship application and background. Not to mention, you may take an English and civics test if required.

Receive a decision on your Form N-400: You will receive 1 of 3 decisions in the mail or online: Granted, continued, or denied. You may get a notice of continuation if USCIS needs more documentation from you, or you failed to provide the correct documents or failed the tests in the step above.

Receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance: If your Form N-400 got approved, you could join the naturalization ceremony on the same day, typically.

Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States: This step is where approved applicants become “official” US citizens. As such, you need to do the following:

  • Complete the questionnaire on Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony
  • Report for your naturalization ceremony and check in with USCIS
  • Return your Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
  • Take the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen
  • Receive and review your Certificate of Naturalization, and notify USCIS of any errors you spot before leaving the ceremony site

Understand what US citizenship means: Although you become an official US citizen in step 9, the last step is to learn the rights and responsibilities that all US citizens should exercise, honor, and respect.

Questions? Get answers by contacting our office at (407) 512-9919. Don’t handle your journey to citizenship alone!