Recently, the Department of Homeland Security released a strategy to promote naturalization, or the process of becoming a citizen. The government recognized the important and privilege of becoming a U.S. citizen and that with more citizens, we can strengthen our nation. The strategy is to promote it through education and awareness, by partnering with different departments within the U.S. There has not been any initiative like this, for at least in the last decade, so it is telling what this administration seeks to accomplish.

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. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you may be able to naturalize within three years of becoming an LPR.

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.

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.