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From Permanent Resident to US Citizen

  If you've been in the United States for 5 years or more as permanent resident, are you ready to become a US citizen? The journey from permanent resident to citizen, known as naturalization, depends on a number of requirements and involves some studying, getting photographed and fingerprinted, submitting the actual application (Form N-400, Application for Naturalization), being interviewed, taking a test on English and US civics, and, finally, taking the oath to become a citizen of the United States of America.  

Requirements for US Naturalization

There are a number of prerequisites before you can begin the application process for US citizenship. You need to be 18 years or older and need to have held a green card for at least 5 years before submitting your application. You also need to have lived in the same US state for at least 3 months prior to applying. Once you apply, you must stay in the US from the time of application until the date of taking the oath and becoming a citizen. Also, you must be considered a person of good character, must be able to speak, write, and read English well, and must have a decent knowledge of US civics and government.  

Preparing and Submitting Your Application

First, visit the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website and read their A Guide to Naturalization, a comprehensive document in the .pdf format which includes an eligibility worksheet. After completing the worksheet, download a copy of Form N-400, the Application for Naturalization and fill it out. Go to a local post office or drug store and have two official passport-sized photos taken and printed. You'll need to send these photos along with the completed form, necessary documents, and a processing fee.  

Being Fingerprinted and Interviewed

After submitting your form, wait to hear from USCIS. The first response you'll receive should be a letter scheduling an appointment for you to go to a local facility and be fingerprinted. Follow through with this appointment and submit any further documents the USCIS may request in the letter. After your fingerprints and and further required documents are received and processed, the USCIS will contact you again to schedule an interview at their local office. At the appointed time, go to the office – and don't forget to bring along your Permanent Residence Card, a state-issued identification such as a driver's license, and any other documents that may be pertinent to your case.  

What Can I Expect from the interview?

During the interview, a USCIS officer will ask you a series of questions about your application, background, and reasons for seeking US citizenship. You must be able to listen and respond to the questions in English. After the verbal part of the interview, you'll be given a test on the English language and US civics. To study for this test, check out the Naturalization Self Test on the USCIS website, a site that generates sample test questions to help you practice. Also, be sure to check out the citizenship test practice questions on our website.  

Getting Sworn In

Once you have submitted your application, been fingerprinted, and successfully completed your interview and test, USCIS will inform you of the status of your case. If you have been cleared for naturalization, USCIS will schedule a ceremony date. On the day of the naturalization ceremony, you'll be asked to check in at the USCIS office, return your Permanent Resident Card, and answer a few questions about your activities since the interview. Then, finally, you'll be able to take the Oath of Allegiance and become a US citizen. After you take the oath, you'll receive a Certificate of Naturalization, an official document that proves your citizenship in the United States of America. The path to naturalization might seem daunting at first, but if you follow these step-by-step instructions, you'll find that it's not so bad – and completely worth the effort!