How long does it take to become a naturalized U.S. citizen?

On Behalf of | Jul 3, 2024 | US Immigration Law

As an immigrant, becoming a United States citizen through naturalization is a significant milestone in achieving the American Dream. You will enjoy similar rights and freedoms to native-born citizens, including the right to vote, fully participate in civic life and legally work in the country without restrictions.

The naturalization process involves several key steps, and the duration can vary across individual cases. Here is what you need to know about the timeline.

Determine your eligibility

You must fulfill some requirements since not every immigrant is eligible to become a naturalized citizen. First, you must be at least 18 years old and have been a lawful permanent resident or green card holder for at least five years. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, the threshold is three years.

Within that period, you must demonstrate continuous physical presence in the U.S. It means not leaving the country for six or more months. You must meet other eligibility requirements, like having good moral character, to qualify for naturalization.

The naturalization process explained

Once you are eligible, the process begins with filing Form N-400 (the application for naturalization) alongside the required supporting documents and fees. The processing time of your application can vary, depending on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) workload.

You must also undergo biometrics, where your fingerprints, photo and signature will be taken, for background checks. You will then be interviewed by USCIS officials to assess the veracity of your application, your English language skills and your knowledge of U.S. civics.

Once you pass the interview and your application is granted, you will take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony. You will now be a U.S. citizen.

Various factors may affect the timeline

As mentioned, the time it takes to complete the naturalization process is not predefined. It depends on factors like USCIS processing times, any additional review or interview requirements and other unique circumstances present in your situation. You could be looking at several months, a year or more.

Seeking legal guidance can help you navigate the process effectively and avoid mistakes that could lead to delays or complications in your journey to becoming a U.S. citizen.