Acquiring U.S. citizenship means becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. Once the prospective applicant acquires U.S. citizenship, he or she can directly participate in U.S. politics by exercising his or her right to vote. In addition, the naturalized citizen cannot be deprived his or her status by a felony charge or by an extended stay outside the U.S. unlike the permanent resident status.
To apply for naturalization, an applicant must have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years from the date of receiving a Green card. However, an applicant who has been a permanent resident as a spouse of a U.S. citizen is eligible to apply for naturalization after 3 years from the date of receiving a Green card. Applicants can save time by filing the applications for the U.S. citizenship three months prior to the 5 years or 3 years of residency. The applicant must have resided for at least three months in the state where the application is filed. A child under the age of 18 years automatically becomes a U.S. citizen if at least one parent of the child is a U.S. citizen. However, the child must have been a lawful permanent resident residing under the custody of the parent. If a child is over the age of 18 when his or her parent acquires the U.S. citizenship, such child must file his or her own applications.
Once the applicant files the applications to the USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, the citizenship interview for the applicant is scheduled. Normally, the assigned interview date is roughly 6 to 12 months from the filing date, but there are variations of the process among states. In the case of the east coast, the applicant is assigned for a fingerprinting appointment and then the citizenship interview is scheduled roughly 12 months after the filing of the applications.
Before the test, it is recommended to study U.S. history and U.S. government structure. Although the interview is proceeded in English, the following are exempted from the English language requirement and may be permitted to get interpreters: a person who is age 50 or older at the time of the interview and has lived as a permanent resident for 20 years, or age 55 or older at the time of the interview and has lived as a permanent resident for 15 years.
If an applicant passes the interview, he or she is required to take an oath of allegiance within 3 to 6 months. At the ceremony, the applicant returns his or her green card. Depending on the USCIS district that the applicant applies in, the certificate of naturalization can be awarded immediately after the interview. From the date receiving the certificate of naturalization, the applicant becomes a U.S. citizen and receives the benefit of becoming a sponsor for immediate family such as his or her parents, spouse, or unmarried child under the age of 21 years.