In general the naturalization process includes the following steps. First you must determine whether or not you are already a US citizen. That is a very convoluted and sometimes difficult investigation. Generally if one of your parents or your grandparents was a US citizen by birth and lived in the US for a certain period of time prior to your birth then you are a US citizen. If your parents were born abroad but a grandparent was a US citizen, you may have what’s called “derived US citizenship” through your parent.
After you determine whether you’re already a US citizen, step two is to determine your eligibility to become a US citizen according to the criteria we discussed above.
The third step is to fill out the application for naturalization correctly with the proper supporting documentation that would prove to USCIS that you are eligible to become a US citizen.
After you submit all that information, the fourth step is that they will ask you to come in for biometrics. This means that you would go in for a photo and fingerprinting, which allows the FBI and other groups to do a background check on your criminal history.
Within a short period of time after you complete the biometrics you should get an interview notice. When you get the notice, you have to go to the USCIS office in your local district and go through the interview process, which is the fifth step. This includes reviewing the application, taking the examination, and reading and writing in English unless you meet one of the exceptions discussed above.
The sixth step is to wait for a decision from USCIS. Sometimes that happens immediately at the interview. Other times that decision will come in the mail. If that decision is an approval then you will subsequently receive a notice to go take the oath of allegiance.
The seventh step is the oath-taking ceremony. At the ceremony you would present your lawful permanent residency card and fill out a paper stating the date and time of your interview and answering some questions about anything that you may have done in the interim between the interview and the oath of allegiance.
The eighth step is to take the oath and become a US citizen. It’s important for you to understand your rights and responsibilities as a US citizen including the right to vote but also the obligation to make sure that you’re informed about the political process and who you would be voting for. You may also qualify for other benefits that you would have been ineligible for as a lawful permanent resident.
What Can I Expect At The Naturalization Interview?
The naturalization interview is a very formal process. They put you under oath when you go in, and they ask you to give them your lawful permanent residency card. You would generally provide your Social Security card as well and then they would proceed.
They can do it in various different ways. They can start with the application and move from there to the testing, but sometimes they do the testing first depending on the nervousness of the person applying. They go through the process of reviewing the application. They conduct the testing. They verify your information. A lot of the documentation that you provide USCIS is originally in copy form, but you will be required to bring in the originals to verify that the documents you submitted were true and correct copies. You would also make any changes or give them any supplemental information you need to give them at that time.
They will then determine your eligibility based on your application, your supporting documentation, and the citizenship test which consists of questions on civics along with reading and writing in English unless you qualify for one of the exceptions. It generally takes a half hour or less to complete the whole process from beginning to end.
What Are Possible Outcomes After The Interview?
There are various possible outcomes. Number one is the best case scenario, which happens a great deal of the time here in our law office. The officer at your interview makes an immediate decision that you have satisfied the requirements for citizenship through naturalization. They provides you with a congratulations letter that says you have passed the tests, you’re eligible, and you have been approved for citizenship, and now you need only wait for your oath ceremony letter. You will become an actual US citizen when you take the oath.
The second possibility is a retest. Let’s say someone passes a portion of the interview but fails to show competency in conversational English or fails to pass the civics exam or fails to write or read effectively in English. If this happens they can schedule a retest, which will generally occur in about 60 to 90 days. This gives the applicant time to study more and then return to pass the test.
The third outcome could be a request for additional evidence. Let’s say for example that you have a driving while intoxicated charge from 20 years ago and you forgot to tell your lawyer about it or you didn’t put it on there because you didn’t think it was important. At that time the USCIS officer could say that they need verification that the case has been adequately resolved for purposes of naturalization. There are other reasons for a request for additional evidence, but as long as you passed the rest of the process they would generally culminate in an approval as long as you are eligible.
The last possible outcome is an outright denial. Generally at our law firm we do not get these unless the person just cannot pass the English-language testing. Generally we know all the requirements for eligibility for citizenship and we do not file citizenship applications when the applicants are not eligible. A denial is very infrequent here for any reason other than the inability to show conversational English skills. In any case, a denial does not necessarily have to be final.
For more information on Steps Of The US Naturalization Process, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (505) 407-0066 today.