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Obtaining US citizenship: answers to the main questions

Are you thinking about applying for citizenship but still have questions? Edition CitizenPath provides answers to seven basic questions asked by people preparing to apply for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, known as the application for US citizenship.

Photo: Shutterstock

An estimated 8 million permanent residents are eligible for citizenship, but exercise caution before taking this important step. This is what most often interests many of them.

Can I apply for citizenship with an expired green card?

Renewing a green card is expensive. If you are going to apply for US citizenship, then you do not want to pay for both documents. In this case, you can submit Form N-400 "Application for Naturalization" with an expired green card, but you must have it in your hands. If your card is lost or stolen, you need to replace it before applying for citizenship.

You can use an expired green card to apply for citizenship, but you should be aware that the next 8-12 months may pass without proof of permanent residence. An expired green card will create other problems, for example, with international travel, getting a job in the United States and a home loan.

How much does it cost to apply for citizenship?

Applying for citizenship costs a little more than renewing a green card. But in the long run, it's actually much cheaper. In most cases, the total USCIS application fee for US citizenship is $ 725. This includes a $ 640 registration fee and a biometric acquisition fee of $ 85.

But how much does it cost not to apply for citizenship? Compared to the long-term cost of remaining a permanent resident, obtaining US citizenship is much cheaper. For example, the average 30-year-old will pay an additional $ 5313 in USCIS fees over their lifetime if they continue to be a permanent resident.

In recent years, USCIS has made it easier to pay N-400 fees. You can pay by credit card. People with low income or with certain living conditions have the right to be waived. Applicants aged 75 and over are not required to pay a biometric fee. Those who serve in the US military will not pay at all.

On the subject: Receiving benefits is no longer an obstacle to immigration and citizenship: court decision

What if I don't pass the citizenship test?

Many job seekers are surprised when they realize that the citizenship test is not as difficult as it seemed. However, if you still fail the test, you will be given another opportunity to do so later.

Now, with study materials, it has become much easier to pass the citizenship test. After completing the N-400 form, you will need to take tests in English, history and civil law. If you know what to learn, then it will be easy.

  • English test. You need to be able to read, write and understand simple vocabulary, use basic grammar. You can even pre-fill your vocabulary.
  • History and Civil Law Test. There are only 10 questions in it, and only six of them need to be answered correctly. These questions are well-known, so they can be studied in advance. Full list of questions here.

For senior residents (50+) or applicants with disabilities, there are a few exceptions to the test.

Can I apply for citizenship if I forget to register for military service?

If you forget to register with the Selective Service (register for military registration), this can create a serious problem when applying for citizenship. Men between the ages of 18 and 26 must register and provide proof of naturalization as a US citizen. The registration requirement applies to US citizens, permanent residents, refugees, asylum seekers, and even undocumented aliens. This requirement does not apply to women or foreign citizens in the United States with a nonimmigrant visa (for example, tourists, students, businessmen, etc.). If the applicant does not register with the Selective Service, they will most likely fail to meet the N-400 “good morale” requirement and the application will be rejected.

Applicants between the ages of 18 and 26 can immediately resolve the issue by registering at www.sss.gov. Applicants between the ages of 26 and 31 will find themselves in a more difficult position if they forget to register. Too late registration means that they will not be able to demonstrate good moral character in the past five years as permanent residents. Most lawyers recommend that their clients wait until they apply.

However, applicants aged 31 and over will be outside this window. Therefore, refusal to register for military service will not affect such an applicant's five-year history of good moral character.

How does USCIS determine if I am of good moral character?

To be eligible for naturalization, a successful candidate must be a person of good moral character. USCIS will make this decision when reviewing your N-400 application, background checks, and immigration history. A few examples of what may indicate a lack of good moral character (list is incomplete):

  • any crime against a person with intent to harm;
  • any crime against property or government involving fraud or malice;
  • two or more crimes punishable by 5 years of imprisonment or more;
  • violation of any US, state or country controlled substances law;
  • habitual drunkenness;
  • illegal gambling;
  • prostitution;
  • polygamy (marriage to more than one person at a time);
  • lying to get immigration benefits;
  • non-payment of alimony established by the court;
  • imprisonment or similar institution for a total of 180 days or more in the past 5 years (or 3 years if you are applying for your marriage to a US citizen);
  • inability to complete a probationary period, conditions of early release or conditional punishment before applying for naturalization;
  • Act of terrorism;
  • harassing someone on the basis of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group.

If you think the “good moral character” requirement may be an issue for you, contact an experienced immigration attorney before filing an N-400.

How long does it take to become a citizen?

The length of the naturalization process can vary depending on several factors, including the number of applications to USCIS and the filing of a well-prepared application. After filing Form N-400 "Application for Naturalization", naturalization usually takes 8-12 months. For some, the term may be shorter, for others longer.

Typically, there are three stages:

  • making an appointment for biometrics;
  • interview for citizenship;
  • oath ceremony.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York

Am I eligible to apply for US citizenship?

Approximately 8 million US legal permanent residents are eligible for citizenship. In most cases, permanent residents apply based on five years of uninterrupted residence in the United States. To be eligible on this basis, the applicant must:

  • be at least 18 years old;
  • be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 5 years;
  • have continuously resided in the United States as a permanent resident for 5 years prior to applying;
  • be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of 5 years prior to applying;
  • have lived in their state for at least 3 months prior to applying;
  • pass the test in English, as well as in history and civil law of the United States;
  • be a person of good moral character.

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