How Long Does it Take to Become a U.S. Citizen?
When you Google this question how long does it take to become a US Citizen you will see a large, bold answer of ‘approximately 6 months’.
However, the true answer is more complicated than the answer Google provides.
READ THIS ARTICLE FOR A BETTER IDEA OF HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE YOU TO BECOME A US CITIZEN
In reality, the naturalization process is much more involved than the answer Google provides to the question.
While the USCIS processing time for the naturalization form is approximately 6 months, the complete process of applying for naturalization and becoming a U.S. citizen will take longer than 6 months.
First off, what are the requirements to become a US Citizen?
In order to apply for citizenship, there are some requirements that you must meet beforehand.
1) Be 18 years or older
2) Be a lawful Green Card holder (a Legal Permanent Resident)
3) Have been in the United States for the last five years consecutively
(Note: If you are married to a U.S. Citizen, the amount of time that you must have been in the United States consecutively is reduced from 5 years to 3 years)
4) Show that you have lived for at least three months in the same state or USCIS district where you currently live
Note that you must meet these requirements BEFORE you file your N-400 Application for Naturalization, or USCIS will reject your application.
You may, however, file your application 90 days before you have met the residency requirement of either 3 years if you are married to a U.S. citizen, or 5 years otherwise.
How long does the actual citizenship application process take?
The actual processing of your N-400 application by USCIS can take anywhere from six months to a year (and potentially even longer).
The amount of time that it can take to hear back from USCIS about your application will depend on the time of year that you apply, the number of other applications that USCIS is handling at that time, where you live, if there are any complications in your immigration situation, and where/how you turn in your application.
Keep in mind, that while it can take weeks or months to hear back about your application’s progress, even more time can be added to the process if there are mistakes in your information on the form.
If a mistake is found in your application by USCIS, it will be returned to you and you will need to fix the mistakes and re-apply. This can significantly delay the completion of your process, significantly increase the cost of your process, and this can potentially happen multiple times with one application (which would significantly extend the amount of time that it will take to become a US citizen).
This is an area where Road to Status can come in handy. Our software checks applications for common mistakes to help ensure that your application gets accepted the first time around.
After the application is properly filed (mailed) and accepted by USCIS, there are still the following steps that you will need to take to finish the process and successfully become a US Citizen.
Once USCIS receives your application, you will be sent a biometrics appointment notice. During this appointment, you will have your fingerprints, photograph, and signature taken so that USCIS can run background checks and verify the information you submitted on your application.
This appointment is usually scheduled within a few weeks of USCIS accepting your N-400 application. The notice will provide you with instructions on when and where you should appear, as well as the proper ID to bring with you.
This is not an appointment to submit documents, just to verify your information and have your photo, fingerprints, and signature captured. If the machines have a hard time capturing your information, USCIS can send a second appointment notice, and you do need to appear for any appointments scheduled.
Citizenship Interview, Tests, & Ceremony
The next appointment notice you will be sent is for your Naturalization interview. This appointment is where you will be administered the 10 question Civics test and the English language test. You will also be interviewed about your immigration history and N-400 application.
You will find out immediately if you pass the Civics and English tests in the moment so there is no waiting for that part of the process. If you do not pass the Civics or English tests, USCIS will schedule a second opportunity for you to take the tests, but you only have two chances at the tests.
If the officer needs further information or documentation in order to decide whether or not to approve you for Naturalization, they will give you a list of documents and a specific time frame to return what they request.
If you pass the interview, they might even tell you on the spot that you passed, but they can also approve you later if they need more time to review your case.
Once you have passed the tests and the interview, you will be scheduled within approximately 6 months to take part in a Naturalization Ceremony where you will be sworn in as a U.S. Citizen.
Keeping Track of Your Progress
If you feel like the process is taking a very long time, you are not alone. You are able to track the status of your case on the USCIS website as well as with Road to Status here.
If you get no information on your case here, and you still think that they should have your application by now, take the steps to double check that you have sent your application to the correct address and be sure to update your address if you move after you mail the application.
You must update your address within 10 days of moving, and include your N-400 case number so that all of your documents will get to the right address. Also, check your bank records to make sure that all of the correct fees went through when they were supposed to.
Save Yourself From Delays in US Citizenship Process
Before sending in your application, double and triple check your N-400 Application for Naturalization. Taking an extra ten minutes to do everything correctly can save you months of time in the future.
If you would like to extra certain, using Road to Status’ software to check for errors while it helps you complete your application can help provide an extra level of safety.
In addition, through Road to Status you can have a licensed immigration attorney give you personalized help before you fill out your application and/or have an attorney review your completed application before you send it to USCIS.
All software and attorney services purchased through Road to Status come with a 100% money back guarantee that your application will be accepted by USCIS or the money you paid will be promptly returned to you.
After you’ve sent your application to USCIS, do not miss your appointments. Both your biometrics appointment and your interview appointment are very important. Missing an appointment or interview can delay your path to citizenship (and sometimes can result in a complete denial of your application).
While five years is the amount of time that you need have been a permanent resident of the United States to become a US Citizen, it is not accurate to say that it will take you five years to become a US Citizen. The process can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more, completely depending on your situation, the time of year, where you live, and much more.
USCIS is hoping to shorten the amount of time it takes to become a US citizen to six months by digitizing the process, but even after ten years of work, they are just getting the Naturalization process digitized in their offices. Until this time comes, pay attention to detail, be patient with the process, and double check and triple check your application paperwork, and apply to become a US Citizen as soon as you are eligible and it is reasonable for you to apply.