If you've always dreamed of becoming an American citizen, you can apply for citizenship status once you've been a legal permanent resident of the U.S. for at least five years, or if you've been married to a U.S. citizen for three years. This naturalization process begins when you submit an application for citizenship to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, provide your fingerprints and pass a background check. Then you are scheduled to appear for a personal interview. After you pass your naturalization interview, all that's left before obtaining full citizenship is participating in a ceremony and reciting the Oath of Allegiance.
Once your background check is completed, USCIS will schedule you for an interview. You will be notified of the appointment date, time and location by mail. On interview day, be sure to bring along the appointment notice; your passport, permanent resident or alien registration card; any re-entry permits you have; state identification card; and any other documents requested in your appointment notice. Arrive at least 30 minutes early. During the interview, a USCIS officer will look at your documents and place you under oath. He will ask you a variety of questions, including about your background and character. He will also test your English reading, writing and speaking skills, and your knowledge and understanding of basic U.S. history and government.
Notice of Decision
After completing your naturalization interview, USCIS will issue you a decision letter. If you passed the interview, the letter will tell you that your request for citizenship has been granted. You will also receive a "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" informing you of the date, time and location of your oath ceremony, which is the last step. Sometimes, USCIS advises applicants in person on the day of the interview that they have passed. In this case, you may be able to attend an oath ceremony on the same day.
Participating in Oath Ceremony
Upon arriving at the oath ceremony, you must check in and return your permanent resident card to USCIS. USCIS suggests arriving at least 30 minutes early. Your attire should be professional -- no jeans, shorts or flip flops. If more than one day has passed between the interview and the oath ceremony, USCIS may ask you several follow-up questions about what you've done during this time. These questions can be found on the back of your "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony." Then, you recite the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
Certificate of Naturalization
After reciting the oath at the ceremony, USCIS will issue you a Certificate of Naturalization. This document serves as proof of your American citizenship. USCIS recommends updating your Social Security records at your local Social Security Administration office and applying for a U.S. passport soon after the ceremony.