About the road to US citizenship

Q. I am currently a Lawful Permanent Resident, and I am curious to learn more about the process of becoming a US citizen. What do I need to do, and what are the advantages of naturalizing?

A. There are a few significant advantages to becoming a US citizen, however, those benefits do not mean that everyone should go ahead and apply. As we will explain, there are risks to submitting a naturalization application, so before making any decision, make sure that you contact the Rian Immigrant Center to receive a legal consultation.

Of the many reasons that motivate people to naturalize, three generally top the list: the ability to vote, the inability to be deported, and the right to petition for more immediate family members. First, only US citizens can cast a ballot – no other immigration status confers that civic power. Second, unlike Lawful Permanent Residents, US citizens cannot be deported to their home country. Third, US citizens can petition for their adult children, even if married, their parents, and their siblings to immigrate to the US – an option not available to Lawful Permanent Residents. 

Other motivating factors to gain US citizenship include the lack of restrictions on the amount of time spent outside the country, the access to certain government benefits only offered to US citizens, and/or eligibility for certain federal grants.

Those reasons are quite compelling, but do not immediately go to the USCIS website to fill out and submit the application. Applicants for US citizenship must demonstrate that they comply with the eligibility requirements, and so, you do not want to inadvertently place yourself at risk of deportation. 

Importantly, you must disclose all relevant facts to USCIS, including your entire criminal history, regardless of whether the charge resulted in a conviction. As such, convictions of crimes that you might not consider too problematic – say, shoplifting or DUI – could prevent you from demonstrating the Good Moral Character requirement or could lead USCIS to refer you to removal proceedings.

For that reason, if you have had any previous arrests, convictions, visa fraud allegations, marriage fraud issues, or any other problems with law enforcement agencies, we highly recommend that you receive legal advice before applying for US citizenship.  

In order to apply for and gain US citizenship, you must submit the Form N-400 (with the associated fee or with a fee waiver), pass an English and Civics test, complete an interview, and take the Oath of Allegiance. After your N-400 application is filed, you will receive a notice letting you know that the government received your application and is processing it. You will then receive a notice letting you know the date, time, and location of your interview. 

During the interview, you discuss your naturalization application with a USCIS officer, demonstrate your English competence, and pass the Civics exam. If your application is granted, you will then take the oath. In some cases, the Oath Ceremony will occur on the same day as your interview, but in other situations, you may be scheduled for a later date. If the ceremony does not occur on the same day as your interview, USCIS will mail you a notice with the date, time, and location of the ceremony. You must attend that Oath Ceremony to become a US citizen! After you take the oath, you will receive a certificate that proves you are a US citizen.

Disclaimer: These articles are published to inform the general public, not to advise in individual cases. All law, including immigration law, is always subject to change. If you seek legal advice you can contact Rian’s immigration legal staff at 617-984-6542.