1. Submit Your Complete Application. Go to the US government's, immigration and naturalization website, which contains specific information and the exact requirements necessary for people who want to become US citizens. Immigrants who are permanent residents need to fill out the N-400 form which can be downloaded and printed directly from this website. It is necessary for a person to be a permanent resident prior to applying for citizenship.
2. Get Fingerprinted
3. Attend USCIS Interview and Take Tests. If you qualify, prepare for the citizenship test and interview by studying basic US history and civics. You also must be able to demonstrate that you have basic proficiency in the English language. To improve your English skills and prepare for the citizenship test and interview, contact your local adult basic education or literacy program to locate an ESL (English as a Second Language) instructor or tutor. ESL classes are a wonderful resource for immigrants and those seeking citizenship, and the classes and materials are offered *free* in most communities. It's a good idea to contact your local library or community college to find out about the nearest classes or to get contact phone numbers for the classes. Taking the classes will bolster your self-confidence, make you feel connected to the community and to other people who have come to the US from other countries, and help you with the nitty gritty of learning US civics, history, and the English language.
4.Take the Oath to Become a U.S. Citizen
- Interviewers at the citizenship interview will ask you questions from a list of 100 U.S. history and civics questions. You will be asked to answer the questions orally or in written form. You can learn the answers to these questions at the website to reinforce what you learn in your ESL class.
- Be sure you memorize all the information you have given on your N-400 form. Know your permanent resident number as well as dates of departure and arrival for any trip you have taken outside the U.S. since becoming a permanent resident. Also, be able to provide the reason for the trip (business, vacation, to visit family, etc.) You can and will be asked questions taken from the information you give on your N-400 form, so be sure you know it thoroughly.
- It is very important to read, understand, and be able to explain in your own words the "Oath of Allegiance". You can be asked about this at your interview. An ESL instructor can and should help you with this.
- Be sure to practice "small talk" before you have your interview. That is, practice talking about the weather, asking how someone is doing, etc. This shows you can interact with others in basic English.
- Don't give up! Adjusting to life in the U.S. is filled with challenges and joys. If you reach out to others who want to help and keep taking concrete steps toward achieving your goal of becoming a citizen, you will succeed!
- When you become a citizen, it's a good idea to register to vote and get your passport quickly.
There are three ways to become a citizen of the United States of America.
The technical legal definitions of obtaining citizenship in one of these ways are the principle of jus soli (right of birthplace) and the principle of jus sanguinis (the right of blood).
As to children born outside the U.S. to parents who are American citizens, there are a few more exceptions and Congress is free to redefine and change the rules for citizenship under the principle of jus sanguinis.
The third way is not automatic and that applies to people who were neither born in the U.S. nor born to parents who were U.S. citizens at the time of their birth. These are people from other nations and they have to acquire citizenship through the naturalization process. The first step is to gain admittance to the U.S. as a resident alien (a person who is allowed to live and work in the U.S. but who is not a citizen).
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Here are some of the ways to legally move to the United States and have the option to become a citizen with all the rights and responsibilities of one who was born in the U.S. or born outside the United States to American parents:
- Apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country for an immigrant visa. This can involve a very long wait before you receive the visa and are allowed to move to the United States.
- Apply for and win one of the 50,000 immigrant visas awarded by lottery every year by the U.S government. The application for this also requires that you apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. While the odds of winning are small, the wait will be short if your name is drawn (the application is for you and your immediate family),
- Enter the United States as a political refugee and apply for asylum in the U.S. I believe that you can also apply for this from abroad as well. The requirement here is that you face persecution or even death in your homeland because of your political views. Granting of such visas is usually a political decision by the U.S. State Department.
- Marrying an American citizen abroad and applying to enter the U.S. with your spouse. This is a K-3 Nonimmigrant Visa for a Spouse. Check the U.S. State Department Visa page for information on this type of visa.
- Coming to the U.S. to the U.S. to marry your American fiancée. This is known as a K-1 Fiancée Visa (there is also a K-2 Visa issued to children of the foreign fiancée - it appears that the child in this case has to be under 21 years of age in order to be admitted on the K-2 visa with the parent).
- Being adopted as a child by an American citizen. This is not really an option as those adopted are generally too young to make a choice and the decision to adopt and bring the child to the U.S. is made by the American parent to be.
- Entering the United States under sponsorship of a relative who is an American citizen. If you have relatives in the United States you can often expedite the process by having them sponsor you as an immigrant. I believe that the sponsoring relative has to assume financial responsibility for you for up to a decade if you cannot find work.
- Enlisting and serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The United States does accept foreign nationals into the enlisted ranks of the military (I believe that officers have to be U.S. citizens). This can be a route to U.S. residence and citizenship if you qualify.