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Ready to trade in your green card for a U.S. passport?

Did you come to the United States in search of a better life? More than likely you did, and you have spent the last few years building a life for yourself here in New York. Now, the time has come to trade in your green card for a U.S. passport.

The problem is that you don't know what to expect. You know there's a test, an interview and lots of paperwork, but knowing that doesn't alleviate your frustrations and fears about the process. Below is an outline of the steps you will take on your journey from permanent resident to U.S. citizen.

Steps to naturalization

Before you begin, you must first determine whether you meet the minimum qualifications for citizenship. An immigration attorney can help you figure out whether you have taken the necessary steps to start the process. Thereafter, you take the following steps toward becoming a U.S. citizen:

  • Fill out the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400.
  • Gather the necessary documentation to go along with your application.
  • After you submit your application and documentation, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will send you a notice that it received your packet.
  • If necessary, USCIS will notify you that you need to provide biometrics such as fingerprints, etc. The notice will include a location, time and date for you to provide this information.

Once you meet all of the required prerequisites, USCIS will inform you of a time, date and location for an interview. This is often the most nerve-racking part of the process for many people. An immigration attorney can help prepare you for this step, including helping with the types of questions that are often asked, what paperwork you need to bring and the like.

After the interview

Once you complete the interview, the next step is to wait. USCIS will send you one of three notifications regarding the decision to approve your application:

  • If USCIS grants your application, it determined that you are able to become a citizen.
  • If your application is continued, USCIS may need more time or information in order to process your application. This happens most often when you fail the civics test or the English test. It may also mean that you failed to provide adequate documentation to support your application.
  • If USCIS denies your application, it determined that you have not yet met the requirements for citizenship.

If your application is granted right away or after you provide the requested information in the notice of continuance, you then participate in a naturalization ceremony that includes taking an Oath of Allegiance to the United States. You will be required to fill out a questionnaire that an officer with USCIS reviews prior to you taking the oath. You must also turn in your green card prior to the ceremony.

Upon completion of the ceremony, you receive a Certificate of Naturalization. Before you leave, check it to ensure that all of the information on it is correct.

Legal assistance could be invaluable

Any number of points during this process could trip you up, and USCIS could deny your application. If you initially received a denial of your application, that does not mean that you may never become a citizen, and an attorney may be able to help.

Having a legal ally by your side throughout this process can help reduce the possibility of mistakes that could prevent you from becoming a U.S. citizen. In order to increase your chances of a successful and hassle-free experience, you might consider speaking with an immigration attorney as you begin the process.

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