When and How Can I Become a US Citizen?

The path to becoming a U.S. citizen isn’t always short or straightforward. The process through which a non-citizen becomes a U.S. Citizen is called naturalization. You can become a naturalized citizen if you:

  • Have had a permanent resident (green) card for at least five years; three if you are applying for citizenship through marriage to a U.S. citizen;
  • Meet eligibility requirements, including being a person of good moral character who is at least 18 years old and able to read, write, and speak basic English;
  • Complete the 10-step naturalization process, including determining eligibility, preparing the application, taking the U.S. naturalization test, and having a personal interview.

You can obtain a green card through marriage, relatives living legally in the U.S., a qualifying job offer, or as a refugee or asylum seeker.

How Long Does It Take to Become a U.S. Citizen?

Once you have a green card and are a legal permanent resident of the U.S., the length of time it will take to become a U.S. citizen depends on the path you take. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you must have your green card for three years before applying for citizenship. Otherwise, you must have your green card for five years before applying.

As of October 2, 2020, naturalization application fees will be $1,160 plus an additional $85 biometrics fee. This fee is an increase of more than $500, so if you can submit your application before the fees increase, it may be worth it. The fee for asylum seekers is $50.

How Long is the Processing Time for U.S. Citizenship?

Once you submit your Application for Naturalization, the process can take anywhere from 10 to 13 months for most people. In addition to naturalization wait times, it can often take years to get a green card for permanent residence in the U.S. If you apply for a green card through marriage, it can take anywhere from 10 months to three years, depending on where you live. Waits can be similar for employer-sponsored green cards depending on the priority of your job classification. For other relatives living outside the U.S., the wait can be years. However, COVID-19 is currently delaying all response and processing times.

Whether you are beginning the green card application process or ready to apply for naturalized citizenship, you should discuss your situation with an experienced immigration attorney. I’ve helped hundreds of couples from all over the world navigate the path to U.S. residency and citizenship. I’d love to help you too.