Individuals who hold green cards in the U.S. can apply to become U.S. citizens after three to five years as legal permanent residents. Becoming a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process provides the qualified person with the same rights as natural-born citizens, including the right to vote, other basic civil rights, and protection from deportation.
In order to become a U.S. citizen, the naturalization process requires the following through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
The N-400 form costs $640 to file. Additionally, there is an $85 fee for biometrics, or fingerprinting. The naturalization process totals $725, although not every applicant is required to pay for and complete biometrics. There are also ways that fees can be reduced or waived.
There are some individuals who do not have to apply for a waiver or reduction of fees. These are:
If you are unable to afford the fees for citizenship, you can request the fee to be reduced or waived.
To request a fee reduction, you can file Form I-942 with supporting documentation. This form must be filed at the same time as the N-400, not after. To qualify for a reduced fee, your household income must be between 150% and 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. If approved, the N-400 form cost will be reduced by 50%. It will total $320 for those who don’t have to pay the biometrics fee and $405 for those who do.
To request a fee waiver, you must file a Form I-912. To qualify for a waived fee, you must show the USCIS documentation and proof of financial need for the waiver. You can qualify for one of the following reasons:
If you are approved for the fee waiver, you do not have to pay the naturalization fees.
When you submit the Form N-400 through the USCIS’s online site, you can pay the fee through the same site.
If you are submitting a paper application, the fee must be sent in one of the following ways:
A check must be made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. These fees are non-refundable, regardless of the decision the agency makes on your application.
A: The fee for the naturalization application and process totals $725. The application process is $640, and biometrics services are $85. For some individuals, the biometrics service is not required. For individuals who are expecting a complex immigration process or who want to use all the resources they can to succeed, they can work with an immigration attorney. An attorney can protect an individual’s rights during the application and naturalization process. However, this does make the process of becoming a citizen more expensive.
A: The process of applying for citizenship, having it processed, and completing the naturalization steps and citizenship tests can take anywhere from eight months to two years. You can only apply for citizenship after a certain amount of time with a green card. For military members, this is one year; for those who married U.S. citizens, this is three years. Others must hold their green card for five years before they can apply for citizenship. Obtaining a green card is also a lengthy process.
A: A green card is a lawful permanent resident card that allows an individual to be a permanent resident of the U.S. to live and work. A green card may be employment-based, family-based, obtained through refugee status, or based on another eligible reason. For most green cards, there isn’t an amount of time you must live in the U.S. prior to obtaining a green card. However, once you have a green card, absences from the country longer than a year may rescind your permanent resident card.
A: There is a fee waiver process for the fee required for a U.S. citizenship application. The fee waiver is submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with supporting documentation. This documentation shows that you are experiencing financial hardship and are unable to pay the necessary fee. This proof may show that you or your spouse receive government benefits, that your household income is at 150% of federal poverty guidelines or below, or there is another current financial hardship.
At U.S. Law Center, we are familiar with the intricacies of immigration law in California. We can help you prepare and file for citizenship and can help determine your eligibility. If you are hoping to become a U.S. citizen in the future but must first apply for another residency status, we can talk you through your options. There are several paths to citizenship, and we can help determine which meets your needs and which you qualify for. If you are dealing with other immigration issues, including green card applications, residency status changes, or deportation proceedings, we can help. Contact U.S. Law Center for compassionate and experienced legal support.