Immigration and naturalization are closely related, but all too often the naturalization process is misinterpreted as an illegitimate process of legalizing undocumented immigrants — when in fact, it’s a highly regulated process and involves many steps. Here are just a few key facts about the naturalization process, what it entails, and why the process is pretty different from other immigration issues:
- The naturalization process isn’t just where a foreign immigrant is allowed to reside and work in the U.S. legally; instead, the person is allowed to become a full U.S. citizen with all of the rights that domestic-born citizens have.
- The actual process first starts when an immigrant applies for legal citizenship. The application can only be submitted by eligible immigrants, and eligibility is limited to people who are least 18 years old, who live legally in the U.S. and have been living in the country for at least five years, and people who possess a good moral character.
- When a person is eligible and submits their application for naturalization, the next step is to schedule an interview and a test. Immigration lawyers typically help people with these steps because there’s so much preparation and paperwork — and let’s be honest, immigration laws aren’t the easiest things to understand, even for people born in the U.S.!
- The interview and test questions are intended to measure a person’s ability to speak English fluently and also to assess the person’s background and dedication to become an upstanding citizen, and the test often focuses on history and language skills. Ultimately, this stage of the process is intended to help the person figure out if they really want to be an American citizen.
- There are fees involved and depending on the applicant’s personal situation, there may be a waiting period wherein the paperwork is filed and the application is considered. Applicants are always encouraged to seek help from an immigration law group or lawyer to ensure that everything is processed smoothly.
The entire naturalization process may take a while, but there’s really no way to measure the excitement of becoming a legalized American citizen at the end!