The naturalization ceremony is one of the most memorable moments in the life of many immigrants. In this formal ceremony, a person pledges allegiance to the United States and becomes a naturalized citizen.
But getting there is not easy. There are appointments to keep and tests to take. The process can be long and it’s easy to forget a document or signature, which can lead to delays. Some mistakes might even cost the applicant hundreds of dollars in lost costs.
The following tips will guide you through the application process so that you can become a citizen as quickly and easily as possible.
Double check the application
One of the most common mistakes when applying for citizenship is filing the N-400 application with omissions or mistakes, according to Nancy Guerrero, an immigration officer with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS.
“A lot of people focus too much on studying the 100 questions on the citizenship test, but they sometimes forget to double check the application before filing it,” she said.
To avoid mistakes, she recommends applicants:
- Go over the application in detail to make sure it was filled out correctly and truthfully, especially if someone else helped complete the form
- Make sure to include all documents pertinent to the N-400 application such as copies of both sides of the legal residency card and two identical color photographs
- Include the correct application fee in a check or money order
Send additional documents
Once the application has been sent and accepted by USCIS, the applicant needs to interview with an immigration official where he or she will take a test about US civic life, as well as a basic English competency test.
Guerrero says the immigration officer will give the applicant a letter at the end of the interview and might request additional documents. If that’s the case, the person needs to comply with the request within the specified time and include the letter he or she received. Otherwise, the application might be delayed.
“This will help the paperwork move a lot quicker,” said Guerrero.
Make sure you meet special requirements
Some immigrants are exempt from taking the English test and might even take the civic test in their native language. These exceptions are given to people who:
- Are 50 years or older when applying for citizenship and have lived in the United States as legal permanent residents for more than 20 years
- Are 55 years or older when applying for citizenship and have lived in the United States as legal permanent residents for more than 15 years
Immigration officials offer a word of caution for people who want to take advantage of these exceptions: don’t send in your application if you don’t fully meet the requirements, even by one day. They say they often get applications from people who are about to qualify. Unfortunately for them, the application is returned and the application fee is not refunded.
“This happens quite frequently,” said Guerrero.
You can learn more about how to prepare for the application process by watching this video that outlines the five most common mistakes people make.
If you are ready to apply for citizenship visit USCIS.gov or call 1-800-375-5283.