How Long Does it Take to Become a US Citizen (For Real)

Becoming a United States citizen is a dream for many individuals around the world. It opens up a world of opportunities, from the right to vote to the ability to travel freely with a U.S. passport.

How Long Does it Take to Become a US Citizen

However, the path to U.S. citizenship is a process that requires time, patience, and dedication. In this article, we will explore the timeline and factors affecting the duration of the journey to becoming a U.S. citizen.

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Understanding the Path to U.S. Citizenship

Candidates for US citizenship take the oath of allegiance during a Naturalization Ceremony for new US citizens at the City Hall of Jersey City in New Jersey on February 22, 2017. / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Different Paths to U.S. Citizenship

There are two primary paths to U.S. citizenship: naturalization and derivative citizenship. Naturalization is the process through which individuals who are not U.S. citizens at birth can become citizens. Derivative citizenship, on the other hand, is automatic citizenship granted to certain individuals who are born abroad to U.S. citizen parents.

Naturalization Process

For most individuals, naturalization is the route to U.S. citizenship. It involves a series of steps and requirements set by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Let’s explore the naturalization process further.

Derivative Citizenship

Derivative citizenship applies to individuals who acquire U.S. citizenship automatically through their parents. This may include children born abroad to U.S. citizen parents or adopted children of U.S. citizen parents. The process and timeline for derivative citizenship can vary depending on the specific circumstances.

Factors Affecting the Time to Become a U.S. Citizen

Several factors can influence the time it takes to become a U.S. citizen. Understanding these factors can help individuals set realistic expectations regarding their citizenship journey.

Length of Permanent Resident Status

Before applying for naturalization, individuals must first become lawful permanent residents (LPRs) of the United States, commonly known as green card holders. The length of time one holds permanent resident status can impact the eligibility to apply for naturalization. Generally, the requirement is to have maintained continuous residence in the U.S. for at least five years, or three years for individuals married to U.S. citizens.

Age and Eligibility Requirements

The age of an applicant can affect the naturalization process. Generally, individuals must be at least 18 years old to apply for naturalization. However, certain exceptions exist for children of U.S. citizens who may qualify for citizenship before turning 18.

Language and Civics Requirements

To become a U.S. citizen, applicants must demonstrate proficiency in English and have knowledge of U.S. history and government. This includes passing the English and civics tests during the naturalization interview.

How much does it cost to become a us citizen?

At a Glance: The total cost to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization is $725, which includes a $640 application fee (N-400 fee) and an $85 biometrics services fee.

How long does it take to become a us citizen with a green card?

If you’re a green card holder with no special circumstances, you can apply for United States citizenship at least five years after obtaining your green card. You also must have physically lived in the U.S. for at least 30 months (two-and-a-half years) out of those five years.

The Naturalization Process of U.S. Citizen

The Naturalization Process

Now let’s delve into the step-by-step process of becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization.

Step 1: Determine Eligibility

Before starting the naturalization process, individuals should review the eligibility criteria set by USCIS. This includes meeting the residence and physical presence requirements, being of good moral character, and demonstrating attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution.

Step 2: File USCIS Form N-400

The next step involves completing and submitting USCIS Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. This form collects personal information and details about an applicant’s immigration history.

Step 3: Biometrics Appointment

After submitting the application, applicants are typically scheduled for a biometrics appointment. During this appointment, fingerprints and photographs are taken for background checks and identification purposes.

Step 4: Interview and Exam

Once the biometrics process is complete, applicants are called for an interview with a USCIS officer. The interview includes questions about the applicant’s background, English language skills, and knowledge of U.S. civics. Additionally, an English language and civics test will be administered.

Step 5: Oath of Allegiance

If the naturalization interview is successful, the final step is attending the Oath of Allegiance ceremony. During this ceremony, applicants take an oath pledging their loyalty to the United States and renouncing allegiance to their former country. After taking the oath, individuals receive their Certificate of Naturalization, officially granting them U.S. citizenship.

U.S. Citizen Application Processing Times and Delays

It is essential to understand that the processing times for naturalization applications can vary. USCIS provides estimated processing times on its website, but these are subject to change based on workload and other factors.

USCIS Processing Times

USCIS regularly updates its processing times for various immigration applications, including naturalization. The processing times can range from several months to over a year, depending on the specific USCIS office handling the application.

Possible Delays in the Naturalization Process

Several factors can cause delays in the naturalization process. These may include the complexity of an individual’s case, requests for additional evidence, backlogs at USCIS offices, or delays in scheduling interviews or biometrics appointments. It’s crucial to stay informed about the status of an application and consult with an immigration attorney if necessary.

Expedited Naturalization

Certain circumstances may allow individuals to expedite the naturalization process.

Military Service and Expedited Naturalization

Members of the U.S. military and certain veterans may qualify for expedited naturalization. The military offers a fast-tracked path to citizenship as a way of recognizing the commitment and service of non-U.S. citizens in the armed forces.

Special Provisions for Spouses of U.S. Citizens

Spouses of U.S. citizens who are residing abroad may be eligible for expedited naturalization under certain conditions. This provision aims to reduce the time spent apart from family members due to the naturalization process.


Becoming a U.S. citizen is a significant milestone that opens up countless opportunities. While the path to citizenship may require time and patience, understanding the process and requirements can help individuals navigate the journey more effectively. By following the steps outlined in this article and remaining informed about the progress of their applications, aspiring citizens can work towards achieving their goal of becoming U.S. citizens.

  1. Can I become a U.S. citizen if I was born abroad to U.S. citizen parents?

    Yes, if you were born abroad to U.S. citizen parents, you may be eligible for derivative citizenship. The process and requirements for derivative citizenship can vary depending on your specific circumstances.

  2. Can I apply for naturalization before the required five years of permanent resident status?

    In general, you must have maintained continuous residence in the U.S. for at least five years as a lawful permanent resident before applying for naturalization. However, certain exceptions exist, such as for individuals married to U.S. citizens, who may be eligible to apply after three years of permanent resident status.

  3. What happens if I fail the English or civics test during the naturalization interview?

    If you fail either the English or civics test during the naturalization interview, you will have the opportunity to retest. USCIS allows applicants to retest on the portion they failed within 60-90 days of the initial interview.

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