How can I become a United States citizen?

A person may become a U.S. citizen (1) by birth or (2) through naturalization.

If you were born in the United States (including, in most cases, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), you are an American citizen at birth (unless you were born to a foreign diplomat). Your birth certificate is proof of your citizenship.

In most cases, you are a U.S. citizen if ALL of the following are true:

  • Both your parents were U.S. citizens when you were born; and
  • At least one of your parents lived in the United States at some point in their life.

You may also be a U.S. citizen if:

  • One of your parents was a U.S. citizen when you were born;
  • Your citizen parent lived at least 5 years in the United States before you were born; and
  • At least 2 of these 5 years in the United States were after your citizen parent's 14th birthday.

If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth or did not acquire U.S. citizenship automatically after birth, you may still be eligible to become a citizen through the normal naturalization process. People who are 18 years and older use the "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400) to become naturalized.

In order to apply for naturalization, one must first be a Permanent Resident for a certain number of years. Most people must be a Permanent Resident for 5 years before they are eligible for naturalization, but others may become eligible after just 3 years. You should contact an attorney to confirm which time period applies to you.

There is also a "physical presence" requirement in most cases to become a citizen. This means that in addition to being a Permanent Resident for a certain number of years, one must generally be physically present in the United States for a certain number of years as well. If you have remained in the U.S. ever since becoming a Permanent Resident, then this should not be an issue for you. On the other hand, if you have traveled abroad a lot since becoming a Permanent Resident, you should contact an attorney to confirm that you meet the physical presence requirement.

CAUTION: Anybody who has been arrested by the police should consult with an attorney before seeking naturalization. Certain crimes can result not only in denial of citizenship, but deportation.

English and Civic Test

Applicants must demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak simple words and phrases in ordinary usage in the English language. They must also possess a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and of the principles and form of government, of the United States.

The test commonly includes verbal questioning about U.S. history, government, etc. Although there are 100 possible questions with which applicants must be familiar, the actual test typically only includes approximately 10 questions. This is followed by a very short writing sample.

What happens after the test?

If USCIS approves your application for naturalization, you must attend a ceremony and take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. USCIS will notify you by mail of the time and date of your ceremony.

What can I do if USCIS denies my application?

There is an administrative review process for those who are denied naturalization. If you feel that you have been wrongly denied naturalization, you may request a hearing with an immigration officer. Your denial letter will explain how to request a hearing and will include the form you need. The form for filing an appeal is the "Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings under Section 336 of the Act" (Form N-336).

Can I reapply for naturalization if USCIS denies my application?

In many cases, you may reapply. If you reapply, you will need to complete and resubmit a new N-400 and pay the fee again. You will also need to have your fingerprints and photographs taken again. If your application is denied, the denial letter should indicate the date you may reapply for citizenship. If you are denied because you failed the English or civics test, you may reapply for naturalization as soon as you want. You should reapply whenever you believe you have learned enough English or civics to pass the test.

I lost my Naturalization Certificate and I need to travel outside the U.S., how can I obtain proof of my citizenship so that I can apply for a U.S. passport with the Department of State?

You should file Form N-565 (Application for Replacement Naturalization Citizenship Document) with your local office to replace the lost certificate. You may also contact the Department of State for information on how to obtain a passport.

The USCIS office for Minnesota is located at 2901 Metro Drive, Suite 100, Bloomington, MN 55425.

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