A person can be sworn in as a U.S. citizen through the process of naturalization. This is done by filing the N-400 form and submitting the necessary documents to immigration authorities. Anyone applying to be naturalized as a U.S. citizen, however, needs to know as much as they can about the process and be aware of these key points.

You May Already Be a U.S. Citizen

A lot of people apply for naturalization only to find out that they are in fact, already U.S. citizens. It’s worth it for applicants to double-check their background and investigate their family history. A person born in the U.S. should have a U.S. birth certificate and if so, is already a citizen.

They should also check if any of their family members, parents, grandparents, etc. are U.S. citizens and cross-check the date their citizenship became effective and the date the applicant was born. If they were born after their parents or grandparents became citizens, they would have derived their own U.S. citizenship from the fact.

Requirements to Apply for Naturalization

To apply for citizenship, a person needs to submit an application for naturalization. Form N-400 consists of 20 pages with multiple questions separated into various sections. It’s important to consider what kind of citizenship is being asked for and find out the requirements for that particular application.

For example, a person asking for a special three-year permanent resident status by virtue of their marriage to a U.S. citizen needs to live with their U.S. citizen spouse and be a resident in the State where they are applying for at least three months. Any time spent outside the U.S. for longer than six months may have disrupted their continuous residency. It’s important to take note of these things in the naturalization process.

Establishing Good Moral Character

Towards the end of the form are broad yes or no questions that cover various different areas, from taxes to criminal records and so on. Some questions to expect include:

  • Have you filed your taxes?
  • Have you paid your alimony?
  • Do you owe child support?
  • Have you been a member of a military or guerilla group?
  • Have you committed a crime?
  • Have you had immigration violations?

These questions are all meant to determine if the applicant is of good moral character, follows all the rules, and takes care of their own business. If a good moral character cannot be established, immigration may choose to reject the case.

An applicant is expected to answer these questions honestly. But if they find that they’ve answered “yes” to some of the questions in this section, it’s recommended that they speak to an immigration attorney.

Selective Service

At the end of the application form are questions about selective service. In most cases, applicants should answer “no” in these questions unless they meet the following criteria:

  • Male
  • Between the ages of 18 to 26
  • Are in the U.S. with a particular status

If they meet the criteria and did not register for selective service, it’s also recommended that they engage legal counsel.

Citizenship Test

After the application is submitted, the applicant will be asked to take the citizenship test, which comprises three parts: English reading, English writing, and civics and history. This test will have around 100 questions that test the English fluency of the applicant as well as their familiarity with U.S. history.

Some applicants may be exempted from taking the citizenship test, provided they have a medical cognitive disability that affects their learning capacity and that this is clearly established by a doctor in Form N-648.