The process of becoming a U.S. citizen can take longer or shorter depending on the legal status of the person, but there are many resources available to help one successfully become a citizen.
- Go to the US government’s, immigration and naturalization website, which contains specific information and the exact requirements necessary for people who want to become US citizens. Immigrants who are permanent residents need to fill out the N-400 form which can be downloaded and printed directly from this website. It is necessary for a person to be a permanent resident prior to applying for citizenship.
- If you qualify, prepare for the citizenship test and interview by studying basic US history and civics. You also must be able to demonstrate that you have basic proficiency in the English language. To improve your English skills and prepare for the citizenship test and interview, contact your local adult basic education or literacy program to locate an ESL (English as a Second Language) instructor or tutor. ESL classes are a wonderful resource for immigrants and those seeking citizenship, and the classes and materials are offered *free* in most communities. It’s a good idea to contact your local library or community college to find out about the nearest classes or to get contact phone numbers for the classes. Taking the classes will bolster your self-confidence, make you feel connected to the community and to other people who have come to the US from other countries, and help you with the nitty gritty of learning US civics, history, and the English language.
- Fill out the N-400 (naturalization) form. The form can be downloaded and printed from the website. Your ESL instructor can not help you fill it out – they are legally bound not to. If you need assistance with the application form, you should contact an immigration attorney.
- Interviewers at the citizenship interview will ask you questions from a list of 100 U.S. history and civics questions. You will be asked to answer the questions orally or in written form. You can learn the answers to these questions at the website to reinforce what you learn in your ESL class.
- Be sure you memorize all the information you have given on your N-400 form. Know your permanent resident number as well as dates of departure and arrival for any trip you have taken outside the U.S. since becoming a permanent resident. Also, be able to provide the reason for the trip (business, vacation, to visit family, etc.) You can and will be asked questions taken from the information you give on your N-400 form, so be sure you know it thoroughly.
- It is very important to read, understand, and be able to explain in your own words the “Oath of Allegiance”. You can be asked about this at your interview. An ESL instructor can and should help you with this.
- Be sure to practice “small talk” before you have your interview. That is, practice talking about the weather, asking how someone is doing, etc. This shows you can interact with others in basic English.
- Don’t give up! Adjusting to life in the U.S. is filled with challenges and joys. If you reach out to others who want to help and keep taking concrete steps toward achieving your goal of becoming a citizen, you will succeed!
- When you become a citizen, it’s a good idea to register to vote and get your passport quickly.