They come from all over the world with one dream in mind – to become an American citizen. What does it mean to say, “I am an American citizen?” It is more than just voting, receiving a US passport or sponsoring family members to come to the USA. To be an American citizen means that you belong to a unique nation with a heritage of great deeds, a set of ideals, vast resources, and the opportunity to advance in one of the most powerful nations in the world.
There are various ways to become an American citizen, including being born in the United States (regardless of the citizenship of one’s parents); having at least one parent who is a US citizen (regardless of where one is born); and being granted American citizenship through naturalization. Approximately 750,000 Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) of the United States, also known as Green Card holders, receive American citizenship each year after meeting the criteria and completing the naturalization process. Over 20 million people who live in the USA have been granted American citizenship through the naturalization procedure.
In order to become a naturalized American citizen, a Green Card holder must live in the USA at least five years as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) and meet other eligibility requirements. A Green Card holder who is married to an American citizen only has to live in the USA for three years and meet other criteria before applying to become a naturalized US citizen. There are different pathways to receive a Green Card, including Employment-Based (EB) US immigration programs; being sponsored for a Green Card by a family member who is a US citizen or LPR; and through the Diversity Visa (Green Card) Lottery Program. Besides living in the USA for five years as a Green Card holder (three years if married to a US citizen), the LPR must also:
- pass an American citizenship exam;
- read, write, speak and understand English at a basic level;
- be a person of good moral character (i.e., having obeyed the laws);
- file the N-400 Application for Naturalization with the USCIS agency;
- pay the application fee (around $730 USD, subject to change);
- provide biometric information (e.g., photos and fingerprints);
- pass a security background check;
- complete the naturalization interview;
- be invited to take the Oath of Allegiance;
- take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States at a special ceremony;
- receive the Certificate of Naturalization as a new US citizen.
Please note that this is an overview of the US naturalization process, but this information should help you to better understand the basic procedure to become an American citizen.
As a naturalized US citizen, you will have additional rights, such as:
- being able to vote in elections;
- having the opportunity to run for public office (except US President);
- being able to obtain a US passport;
- having the option to remain outside of the United States for long periods of time;
- children born to naturalized US citizens will also have American citizenship;
- the option to apply for certain jobs in the USA that only American citizens can hold;
- being able to sponsor certain family members for a Green Card.
These are some of the many benefits available to naturalized American citizens. This process starts by first receiving a Green Card for Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status in the United States. To learn more about your Green Card options, click here!