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NATURALIZATION


GENERAL REQUIREMENTS


1. At least 18 years old.

2. Lawfully admitted to the United States as a legal permanent resident.

3. Immediately preceding the filing of the application, the applicant

  1. has RESIDED continuously as a legal permanent resident in the US for the statutory period (typically 5 years, but only 3 years if married to a US citizen or 1 year for Armed Forces expedite) prior to filing with absences from the United States totaling no more than 1 year.
  2. has been PHYSICALLY PRESENT in the United States for at least half of the required time. Absences of more than 6 months but less than 1 year may break the continuity of residence unless the applicant can establish that he or she did not abandon his or her residence during such period.
  3. has resided within a state or INS district for at least 3 months

4. Good moral character for the statutory period (typically 5 years, but only 3 years if married to a US citizen or 1 year for Armed Forces expedite) prior to filing for naturalization

  1. See Lighthouse Article #76 regarding Selective Service Registration. Additional information about Selective Service can be found in the OTHER section.
  2. See an US Immigration attorney if you have a criminal history prior to applying for naturalization. Sometimes the INS will not only deny an applicant for naturalization, but will also begin deportation proceedings against the alien.


5. Must be able to read, write, speak, and understand basic English, unless you are exempt from this requirement. You are exempt from this requirement if on the date of filing you

  1. have been residing in the United States as a legal permanent resident for at least 15 years and you are over 55 years old;
  2. have been residing in the United States as a legal permanent resident for at least 20 years and you are over 50 years old; or
  3. have a physical or mental medical impairment that affects your ability to learn English

6. Knowledge of United States government and history, unless you have a physical or mental medical impairment that affects your ability to learn U.S. government and history.

A. Sample test.

B. Special short test if you have been residing in the United States as a legal permanent resident for at least 20 years and you are over 65 years old.

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How and Where Do I Apply?


Many people who apply for naturalization decide to hire an US Immigration attorney. The main reason is for procedural reasonsó the INS citizenship process does not work very smoothly and there is a lot of follow up work with the INS to make sure that the application is on the correct track.

On the other hand, if you are not in a hurry to become a US citizen and do not mind following up with the INS, this is a procedure that many people decide to do by themselves. If you decide to do it by yourself make sure that you make a complete copy of all documents you submit to the INS, send everything certified mail return receipt requested, and get a copy of the canceled checks from the bank to be used as proof of prior filing in case the INS loses your case.

STEP 1: COLLECT DOCUMENTS
The following forms and documents are required to apply for naturalization:

1. INS Form N-400

2. 2 INS color photos with your alien registration number and name printed on the back

3. A copy of the front and back of your green card

4. A translated copy of your birth certificate

5. INS filing fee:

  • Applications received by the INS before January 15, 1999: $95
  • Applications received by the INS on or after January 15, 1999: $225

6. INS fingerprint fee: $25

STEP 2: SEND DOCUMENTS TO INS
California residents applying for naturalization should send the above forms and documents to the following address:

US INS California Service Center
Attention N-400 Unit
P.O. Box 10400
Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-0400

STEP 3: FINGERPRINT APPOINTMENT
The INS will send you an appointment to get fingerprints for an FBI background check. The appointment will be at an authorized INS fingerprint site. Fingerprints expire after 15 months, therefore if the process is not completed prior to the expiration of the fingerprints you may need to get the step done again.

STEP 4: INS INTERVIEW
The INS will send you an appointment for your naturalization interview. For documents required at the naturalization interview, click here. If you pass the English language test and history test you will be scheduled for an "OATH CEREMONY."

STEP 5: OATH CEREMONY
At the oath ceremony you will officially become a naturalized U.S. citizen. You will obtain your naturalization certificate at the end of the ceremony. You should apply for a US passport at your local post office and a new social security card at the social security administration if your current card indicates "WITH INS AUTHORIZATION ONLY". Click here for more information on social security cards.

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RELATED LIGHTHOUSE ARTICLES
(#69-12/01/97)
Applying for a green card by illegal aliens

(#76-04/01/98)
Naturalization and Selective Service

(#95-01/16/1999)
Common Questions About US Immigration Law

(#97-02/16/1999)
Naturalization Q & A

(#104-06/01/1999)
How to renew Green Card and Naturalization ceremony schedule.

(#119-01/16/2000)
A Review of Selected Websites

(#124-04/01/2000)
I'm a US Citizen, What About My Children? Can I Work in J-2 Status? How to Obtain an L-1A Visa

(#126-05/01/2000)
All Naturalization applicants can now report a new address by phone.

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