Important: You must use the new N-400 form and pay the new fee starting December 23, 2016. The form will be released December 22. The new fee will be $725 including the biometrics fee. Click here to schedule a consultation on your case by Skype, phone or email (or in person in Oregon, US).
Sometimes an application for U.S. citizenship leads to unexpected consequences and even deportation; if you have an old conviction that you’ve forgotten about, or made long trips to your home country, it’s likely the government will look more closely at your application. Before you apply for U.S. citizenship, carefully consider the legal requirements and whether it’s a good idea.
There are 12 million green card holders in the U.S., and over 8 million – often here for many years – are eligible to apply for citizenship. It costs $680 for the government fees, you have to complete a detailed application using Form N-400, pass civics and English tests, and meet these requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old;
- Be a Lawful Permanent Resident (have a green card);
- Have five years of continuous residence (only three if you’re married to a U.S. citizen – see below**).
- Be physically present in the U.S. for half of the five (or three) years;
- Have good moral character;
- Pass English and civics tests (see below for exceptions);
- Take an oath of loyalty and be attached to the U.S. Constitution.
**If you are currently married to and living with a U.S. citizen, you can apply after three years if you:
1. Have been married to and living with your same U.S. citizen spouse for the past 3 years; and
2. Your spouse has been a U.S. citizen for the past 3 years.
Many things can prevent you from having “good moral character” and can even lead to deportation, so be careful and know the law before deciding whether to apply. Not paying taxes, lying to get immigration benefits or claiming to be a U.S. citizen, helping someone enter the country illegally, avoiding the draft, and committing or even admitting certain crimes, are all possible bars. Even “minor” crimes such as possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana can be a problem; it’s important to know more before you apply.
Your English will be tested through conversation during your naturalization interview, and you are also required to read and write one sentence of English. There are some exceptions. The questions for the government and history test are publicly available in English, Spanish and Chinese, where you can also watch a video of an interview. You can often take local English and civics classes. If your income is low, you might qualify for a waiver of the $680 application fee. The government’s website has more detailed information on citizenship and naturalization. Once you file your application, it normally takes several months to get an interview, and the length of wait depends on the backlog at your local immigration office.
Can you pass the civics test for U.S. citizenship? Just answer 6 right, of 10 that you’ll be asked. Here’s a sample of the 100 possible questions, (answers are below).
1. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
2. If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
3. What is the highest court in the United States?
4. When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?*
5. When must all men register for the Selective Service?
6. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
7. The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.
8. Who was the first President?*
9. Who was President during World War I?
10.When do we celebrate Independence Day?*
One of the reasons immigrants delay applying for U.S. citizenship is because they fear they’ll lose their original citizenship. Citizenship is important; it allows you to live and work and more in a country. In the European Union, citizenship of a country means you’re a citizen of the EU which gives you rights in many countries, so that’s not something most people want to lose. Today countries have become more flexible on allowing dual (or even more) citizenship. If you’re thinking of naturalizing, you want to check the situation in relation to the law of the U.S. and the other country.
The Immigration & Nationality Law of the U.S. says that nationals may lose their U.S. status for certain specific reasons including voluntary naturalization in a foreign country after reaching 18, with the intention to relinquish U.S. nationality. Recently, some U.S. citizens have renounced their citizenship to gain lower tax rates elsewhere. But most U.S. citizens don’t want to give up their U.S. citizenship when they naturalize elsewhere. In that case they can maintain both as long as the other country allows it.
For more information on U.S. policy, see the State Department’s website.
SPOLER ALERT – Answers to the government and history questions above:
2. the Speaker of the House
3. the Supreme Court
4. April 15
5. at age 18, or between 18 and 26
6. American Indians, or Native Americans
7. (James) Madison; (Alexander) Hamilton; (John) Jay; Publius
8. (George) Washington
9. (Woodrow) Wilson