Everything You Need to Know About American Citizenship
American citizenship situates you in the United States. More than 840,000 people became American citizens in 2019. They came from all nations, and they moved to all parts of the country.
The big number of new citizens may lead you to believe that citizenship is easy to attain. That is not necessarily the case.
Why should you become an American citizen? What are the steps you must take to receive a green card and then become naturalized? What exactly is the citizenship test like?
Answer these questions and you can receive the rights and privileges of American citizenship in little time. Here is your quick guide.
The Perks of US Citizenship
An American citizen has many benefits over a permanent resident. Most states restrict the right to vote in local and statewide elections to American citizens. Only citizens can vote in federal elections, including presidential ones.
Only American citizens can run for federal office. Most state and local offices are also restricted to citizens, regardless of their place of origin.
American citizens can travel with American passports when they go abroad. This grants them protection from the Department of State, who can negotiate with foreign powers to help them get home.
Citizens receive top priority when they petition family members to move permanently to America. The spouses, children, and parents of American citizens have a special application process for permanent residency.
The federal government restricts financial aid grants to citizens, including for college. Many jobs inside the federal government require proof of citizenship.
Your first step to becoming a US citizen is receiving a green card. A green card gives you the status of a permanent resident. You are able to live and work however you please inside the United States.
Many people are eligible for green cards. People who have job offers for important posts with American-based companies can become permanent residents. Religious workers, media personnel, and refugees can also apply.
Some people who are not American citizens serve in the military. They look up “green card needed to join military,” thinking they need a card to serve.
But they do not. Non-American citizens who serve with the armed forces have a specialized path for green cards and citizenship.
Receiving a green card has its own long process. You must apply through a consulate office, filling out documents and submitting to interviews. You may need to provide a work history and other proof showing you are a lawful person.
Qualifications for Becoming a Citizen
Nearly all naturalization applicants must meet a long set of requirements. Each applicant must be 18 years of age.
They must be a green card holder who has lived in the United States for several years. Their stay should be continuous, without long visits abroad.
They should have good moral characteristics. Anyone with a substantial criminal history will be denied citizenship. Anyone who lies to a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer faces rejection.
The applicant must register for military and civil service. They should cooperate when they are summoned for jury duty. They must swear allegiance to the United States, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance word-for-word.
Steps Toward Nationalization
Once you meet all qualifications, you can begin the citizenship process. You should begin with Form N-400, which you can fill out online. You must provide photographs of yourself with your completed form.
You may receive a notification that you need to submit biometric data. The USCIS will let you know where and when to go. You may need to provide fingerprints and a photograph.
You will then complete a verbal interview with a USCIS officer. You must speak English during this interview, and you will answer questions about your background.
You can take your citizenship test on the same day. One part of the test examines your English-language skills, while the other assesses your knowledge of American civics.
You have two attempts to pass both portions. If you fail, you can return two or three months later and retake the portion you failed.
After you pass, you will receive a message from USCIS regarding your Form N-400. They may ask for additional information, or they may say you are eligible for citizenship.
If you receive approval from USCIS, you can participate in a naturalization ceremony right away. Some people are able to take the interview and test, then go straight to a ceremony.
Most ceremonies involve watching video presentations about the United States and its history. You may listen to a speech from an elected official, including President Biden. You will then recite the Pledge of Allegiance and receive a certificate verifying your citizenship.
Naturalization ceremonies are joyous and public occasions. You can invite family members and friends to attend yours, and you can take group photographs when you are done.
As soon as you have your certificate, you are an American citizen. You can apply for a passport and register to vote. You should update your Social Security record so you can start to receive benefits.
How to Obtain American Citizenship
American citizenship can be yours. It will let you vote, run for office, and receive federal protections and programs.
Start by becoming a permanent resident and obtaining your green card. Family members of citizens and military personnel can receive a card in very little time.
Applicants must be adults with no record of unlawful behavior. If you meet all qualifications, submit your Form N-400 and prepare for your test. You need to know English and American civics.
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