There is this idea that it is easy to become a US citizen for any immigrant who wishes to move here. The reality is, there is a lot of work involved with becoming a citizen. Situations, such as being a refugee, can complicate matters and make the transition a very long and arduous process. Today, we will talk about how to become a naturalized citizen, including what paperwork you must fill out, how to fill it out, and when you must follow up with your paperwork. Of course, we are assuming that you hold a visa to be in the US so that you can learn more about our culture and way of life.

Be Sure You Have a Permanent Resident Card

Having the permanent resident card (also known as a green card) makes naturalization easier on the person desiring to be a full-fledged US Citizen. It does require that someone petitions on your behalf and acts as a sponsor into your citizenship. Refugees can often petition on their own behalf due to the nature of the situation that they are fleeing. Having a permanent resident card cannot be avoided, as you will need it for other documents, such as social security. According to Eligibility.com, figuring out how to get a social security card is fairly easy and requires simply filing of an application based on your permanent resident status. You will also be able to obtain identification or driver’s license with your permanent resident card. The social security card and identification is probably the easiest part of becoming a citizen!

It is important to note that your permanent resident card does expire and you must take the steps to renew it. Many cards expire every ten years and it is highly recommended that you renew it six months prior to the expiration date. Should you lose, or have your card stolen, you should file for a replacement immediately.

Check Your Eligibility for Naturalization

The US has specific laws about eligibility. Most people cannot become naturalized until they have had their permanent resident card for at least five years. Some can do it within three years if they are married to a US citizen. Other requirements include being able to speak, read, and write English as well as learn about our history and government processes/laws. There are other requirements that are not as well known, such as no extended trips out of the country. Yes, you can travel, but not for a year or more at a time. If you are disabled, you may have other paperwork to file to explain and prove your disability.

If You Are Eligible

When you become eligible, you must complete an N-400 Application for Naturalization and provide a photocopy of your permanent resident card, payment for application and biometrics fees (check, money order, or credit card). Based on your own situation, it’s quite possible you will need to bring additional documents with you. Department of Homeland Security has provided an excellent document checklist that can help you fully prepare. You do not want to miss a single document as it can prolong your endeavor. In some cases, you may have to start over from the beginning.

What is Biometrics?

Biometrics simply means that they will take your photo, your fingerprints, and collect your signature for the database. It is often done when you are obtaining your permanent resident card and is repeated every 15 months until you are naturalized. The information is to prove that you are who you say you are. At every appointment, you must bring your appointment notice, your identification, and receipts of your immigration status.

While these all may sound like easy methods to becoming a citizen, remember that it takes a lot of time. Immigrants often find themselves on their permanent resident card for well over five years before they are naturalized. Each renewal, each application, and each appointment with biometrics can take months to complete. Take your time and track everything that you have to ensure your best possible outcome!