The United States is a nation of immigrants. Everyone who lives in this country, with the exception of Native Americans, is either an immigrant or the descendant of immigrants. The country continues to accept new citizens every year although the process today is a bit more complicated than it used to be when it only required a boat ride to Ellis Island.
Immigration can be a long and arduous process and can take years. Gaining citizenship in the United States can be even more difficult. Every person has a different journey to becoming a citizen, but this blog is a general overview of the different routes people can take.
How to Become a Citizen
People born in the U.S. receive citizenship automatically, and people born abroad to a parent who is a citizen usually qualify for citizenship automatically as well. Automatic U.S. citizenship is a right protected by the Constitution.
If you are not born in the U.S. or to American parents, becoming a legal citizen takes a much longer process. It generally begins with obtaining a green card, which allows foreigners to live and work in the country. Green cards and work visas are given to people for many reasons ranging from refugees to highly qualified professionals from other countries.
After holding the green card for five years – or three years for a spouse of a citizen – an immigrant is eligible to apply for naturalization. At the end of the naturalization process, that person is considered an American citizen.
Benefits of Citizenship
There are many benefits to becoming a citizen. These include:
- It is easier to find a job because you no longer need an employer to sponsor a visa.
- You can travel abroad and return without complication.
- You have almost all of the same rights and responsibilities as natural born citizen including the right to vote.
To obtain these benefits, non-citizens must apply for naturalization. This is a long process, and while many people manage to navigate it without the help of a lawyer, contacting an immigration attorney is a good way to keep all the requirements straight especially if your case is more complex than usual. The process includes a lot of paperwork, background checks, an interview, testing, and a pledge of allegiance.
The Citizenship Process
There are four tests required for the citizenship exam. Three of them measure the applicant’s English fluency in speaking, reading, and writing. After language abilities are assessed, there is a civics test on U.S. government and history. You can take practice tests online on various websites.
At the end of the immigration process, immigrants take the pledge of allegiance, making an oath to their new country. Once the pledge is made, they are considered a citizen just like any other U.S. citizen.
Our attorneys are well versed in all the complications of immigration law, including the differences in the process depending on the applicant’s background and ancestry. When you are ready to start your application process for citizenship, get in touch with one of our skilled lawyers to start talking about what you need to do to become an American.