How to Apply for US Citizenship in the United States

Gaining American citizenship for foreigners is a long process.
us passport image by Albert Lozano from

The legal requirements for acquiring citizenship/naturalization in the United States are stipulated in the Immigration and Naturalization Act. The U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS, is in charge of most of the processes needed to obtain citizenship. Once applicants acquire citizenship, they are entitled to all the rights accorded to U.S. citizens. Applying for U.S. citizenship can be a complex and demanding task that may not always be fruitful.

Check that you meet all the criteria for the application. A list of requirements are found on the USCIS website. The first requirement states that you must have lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years. Refugees, people who get their green card through political asylum, spouses of U.S. citizens and U.S. military personnel are exempt from this requirement.

Obtain a U.S. citizenship application form by downloading it from the USCIS website. Carefully follow the instructions and completely fill out the form. Send the form, two passport photographs and the application fee to the USCIS. Also send all documentation for any special circumstances.

Wait for the USCIS to process your application and to call you back. Once the application is processed, a USCIS agent will contact you to set up an in-person interview. Fingerprints and other biometric identifications will be taken at the time of the interview. Be aware that the application process may take several months to be completed.

Arrive at the interview on time on the designated day. Take and pass a civics test to demonstrate a working knowledge of U.S. government and history. You also must demonstrate an adequate command of the English language. Answer questions about your background, your supporting evidence and your allegiance to the U.S.

Wait for the USCIS to render a decision. It may take five months to two years for the application to be granted, continued (pending) or denied. Appeal a denial, if desired.

Take the Oath of Allegiance at the swearing ceremony once the USCIS approves the application and notifies you of the swearing ceremony. Return your permanent residency card and receive your Certificate of Naturalization, which confirms your U.S. citizenship.