Want to be Naturalized in the US? Here’s what you need to know.

Every year between 700,000-750,000 people are naturalized in the United States. The process can be straightforward, or incredibly complex depending on the case.

Is Naturalization the same as Citizenship?

Yes, you can become a US citizen either through birth, or through naturalization. Generally, people are born U.S. citizens if they are born in the United States, or if they are born abroad to U.S. citizens. If you are a minor, you also can become a citizen following the naturalization of one or both parents and meeting other required criteria. Naturalization is the process for an immigrant to become a US citizen.

Does having a green card mean that I am naturalized?

No. Having a green card – being a permanent resident – still means that you are ultimately from another country. When you travel outside of the United States you will have to carry your passport from your home country, as well as your green card, in order to get back into the United States.

What are the five steps to getting naturalized?

After getting your green card, and becoming a lawful permanent resident, the steps to getting your naturalization are:

  1. You need to have had a green card for 5 years minus 90 days.
  2. In certain marriage-based cases you can file for citizenship in as little as 33 months after receiving lawful permanent residence.
  3. For $725, Immigration will process Form N-400, an application for Naturalization.
  4. You study the questions on English and Civics, take the test and if you pass, take the oath.
  5. Now you’re a Naturalized Citizen.  That’s it.


Here are 4 Things You Must Know to Be a Naturalized Citizen:

  1. Certain applicants for citizenship will be denied if Immigration determines that they derive naturalization through a parent, automatically.  However, this analysis is very complex.  I have seen a number of cases in which an N-400 was denied because the officer decided that the applicant was a derivative citizen.  Then when the same person tries to file a different form to prove she derived automatic citizenship, the answer is equally frustrating.  Bottom line:  if you have been a green card holder before age 18 AND your parent naturalized before your 18th birthday, you may be denied on your N-400 application.  Consult with the best immigration lawyer you can find to figure this issue out.
  2. Arrests can result in denial.  That’s right.  Many people know that crimes can prevent them from becoming a naturalized citizen.  They even may know that crimes can result in detention and deportation, even if they have had a green card for many years.  But arrests evidence a lack of good moral character.  You need to review your records.  Yet another reason to talk to a superior immigration lawyer.
  3. Failure to pay income taxes or child support may form a basis for denial of citizenship.  Basic delinquency in financial obligations causes problems in naturalization cases.  Denials will be issued if you are not up to date on payments of taxes or child support.   Now you may need a great accountant and a top immigration attorney.
  4. Selective Service Registration for males between 18 and 26 with green cards is a requirement for Naturalization.  Many applicants forget to register.  Then they face citizenship denials.  They can fix this at age 31, but it is a serious problem.

Remember all of the benefits of citizenship, especially if you need to naturalize to apply for green cards for your spouse, parents, children or siblings.

Our firm has represented clients with ten minute citizenship interviews and others that lasted three hours with further review needed.

Also: You may already be a U.S. citizen and not need to apply for naturalization if your biological or adoptive parent(s) became a U.S. citizen before you reached the age of 18. BUT this area is very complex; talk to the  best immigration lawyer to analyze your case.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

Do you have a question about Naturalization?

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