The Naturalization Process

The process by which a foreign national becomes a U.S. citizen is called, naturalization.  Generally speaking, one must be 18 years or older, be a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) for at least five years preceding the date of filing the application, have continuously lived in the U.S. for at least five years prior to filing the application, pass an English and Civics exam, and pass a thorough background check.  Among other things, USCIS will look for criminal records, any evidence of threats to national security, and any indication of bad moral character.

Many LPRs wait many years without becoming a U.S. citizen because of their reluctance to take the English and Civics exam.  The Civics exam requires an applicant to study 100 different questions regarding U.S. history.  The English exam tests an applicant on basic English reading and writing.  However, there are some exceptions and accommodations to these tests.  For example, an applicant does not have to take the English Language Test if: 1) the applicant is 50 years or older, and has been a LPR for 20 years, or 2) the applicant is 55 years or older and has been a LPR for 15 years.  This exception does not mean that the applicant does not have to take the Civics exam.  The applicant must still take the Civics exam, but can take the exam in their native language.

There is also a medical disability exception to both the English and Civics exams, if the medical disability is one that is physical or developmental, such that it would impair the applicant’s ability to comply with the exam requirements.  A doctor must explain the disability and attest to its relation to the two exams.

Some applicants may even qualify to naturalize even though they are not residing in the U.S.  Such applicants must be overseas for a specific type of employment, which would allow them to overcome the continuous residence requirement for naturalization.

If you do not pass the test on the first try, the applicant has the right to take the test one more time within 60 to 90 days of the original test.  In other words, the applicant has two chances to pass the tests without having to start the naturalization process over! There are many organizations that offer free help for these exams, so do not wait to become a citizen of this amazing country.