Legal residents can live, work and study in the United States like any other citizen. However, U.S. citizens have certain privileges that legal residents don’t, such as the ability to vote, travel with a U.S. passport and bring family members to the country. As a permanent resident, you can have these privileges if you apply for your citizenship. Through naturalization, you can live in the country as a citizen and enjoy all the rights that this status implies.
A foreigner can become a U.S. citizen through naturalization. However, not all foreigners are eligible to acquire this status. You qualify for naturalization if:
- You are at least 18 years old
- You have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years (or 3 years if you are married to a U.S. citizen)
- You have been physically present in the country for at least 30 months (or 18 months if you are married to a U.S. citizen)
- You have lived at least three months in the state where you claim residence
You can apply for naturalization if you meet all the requirements. To do this, you need to file Form N-400 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you deliver the USCIS all the documents and information they ask for, they will schedule an interview with you.
The most important step
The interview is the most critical step of the process, so you shouldn’t miss it if you decide to apply. At the interview, an officer will ask you questions about what you included in your application. You will also be tested on your knowledge of the English language and U.S. history and civics. You can find study materials for these tests online.
The USCIS’ decision
If everything goes well in the interview, the USCIS will approve your application, and you’ll become a U.S. citizen after taking the Oath of Allegiance. If you fail the civics or English test, you must not worry. You can retake any of those tests one more time.
From resident to citizen
You could become a U.S. citizen even if you were not born in the country. By applying for naturalization, you can make this idea a reality if you meet all the requirements. However, you must be careful and deliver the USCIS all the paperwork they ask for, as they reject most applications because of missing documents. By making a complete application, you can increase your chances of becoming a U.S. citizen and enjoy the same rights and responsibilities that others who were born in the country have.