Route to American Citizenship

Requirements, Exemptions, and Interview


Many permanent residents dream of becoming U.S. citizens. However, this process involves steps and requirements that must be meticulously met. This article covers different aspects, from exemptions and special exams to interviewing in Spanish.


Citizenship is a common bond that unites people with civic ideals and a belief in the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the United States Constitution. Becoming a U.S. citizen is one of an immigrant’s most important decisions. There may be different ways to obtain citizenship depending on one’s situation.



Are you eligible?


To be eligible for citizenship, an applicant must be at least 18 years old and a Permanent Resident of the United States. This implies that the applicant must have possessed the Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) for a specific period before applying for citizenship. Moreover, they must have spent most of that time living in the United States and be proficient in English.



The requirements


It is important to note that these are just general requirements and may vary depending on each applicant’s situation. Furthermore, policies and regulations may change, so it is always recommended to verify the most up-to-date information on the USCIS website or consult an immigration professional.


To be eligible for citizenship, you must be a Permanent Resident of the United States. This means the applicant must have a Permanent Resident (Green Card) for a specific period before applying for citizenship. Additionally, they must have been physically present in the United States for most of that time.


During residency, the person must demonstrate good moral character in the United States. This includes not having significant criminal records, i.e., not having committed certain crimes or immigration violations. It is also crucial to stay up to date with tax obligations.


After assessing eligibility, you should continue by filling out the N-400 form. At this point, applicants can request an exemption to interview in Spanish if they meet specific requirements.


It is essential to have a basic command of the English language for the interview, as the officer will evaluate it throughout the session. Additionally, this knowledge will be considered during the civics exam, where knowledge of U.S. history and government will be assessed.



Interview Aspects


The civics education interview is an essential part of the naturalization process in the United States. The applicant’s ability to understand and respond to questions about U.S. history and government is assessed during this interview. Here are some critical aspects of the interview:


1. Interview Content: During the interview, the USCIS officer asks questions about U.S. history and government. These questions are selected from an official list of 100 possible answers. To pass this part, the applicant must correctly answer 6 out of 10 questions.


2. Interview Language: Generally, the interview is conducted in English. In addition to providing correct answers to each question, applicants must demonstrate a basic level of proficiency in the language when answering oral questions. The USCIS officer will assess the applicant’s ability to understand and respond in English during this process.


However, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers the option of conducting it in Spanish under certain circumstances. Exemptions and requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and it is essential to review the current requirements to determine eligibility.


As of the latest update in January 2022, USCIS allows citizenship applicants to request an interview in Spanish under certain circumstances. These circumstances typically include:


• Permanent Residence: Applicants who are at least 50 years old and have been permanent residents (Green Card holders) for at least 20 years can request that the interview be conducted in Spanish.

• Medical Exemptions: In cases where medical reasons prevent the applicant from understanding and responding to questions in English, requests to conduct the interview in Spanish or another language may be considered.


3. Interview Preparation: Applicants are encouraged to prepare for the interview by studying the material provided by USCIS, including the study guide “Learn About the United States: A Guide to the Naturalization Exam.”


Proper preparation includes practicing citizenship exam questions, studying the manual, and seeking online resources. Following these steps will help you feel more confident during the interview.



Naturalization Ceremony


The culmination of the naturalization process is the Naturalization Ceremony. Here, new citizens swear allegiance to the United States, officially marking the end of becoming American citizen.


After the oath ceremony, individuals gain valuable rights, such as voting rights. They also assume responsibilities, such as complying with laws and contributing to the nation’s well-being. They can petition for family immigration, receive greater protection against deportation, and be eligible for certain jobs and federal benefits.


It is essential to assess each process carried out at USCIS and decide whether to hire an attorney. If the case is complex, it is best to have an attorney assist with the naturalization process.


A complex citizenship case may arise if the person has specific conditions or potential issues, such as criminal records, extensive time outside the United States, or complex family situations. An attorney could address these issues and present the case effectively.


Hiring an attorney will depend on each individual’s particular circumstances and needs. We invite you to consult with Oasis Legal Group, our team of immigration attorneys. Do not hesitate to contact us for personalized advice about your situation.



Frequently Asked Questions


What are the basic requirements to apply for citizenship?


Being a Permanent Resident means meeting the physical presence requirement, demonstrating good moral character, having basic knowledge of the English language, and having a civics education.


How long does it take to obtain citizenship after applying?


The processing time can vary, but generally, the application to the Naturalization Ceremony takes several months to submit.


Can I apply for citizenship if I have a criminal record?


A criminal record can affect eligibility, but the severity and type of offense will be considered. It is essential to consult with an immigration attorney to assess how the background may affect your case.


Can I apply for citizenship if I have spent time outside the United States?


Extended time outside the United States can affect eligibility. A continuous period of residence in the United States is required before applying. Consult with an attorney to evaluate your situation.


How can I prepare for the civics education interview?


You can prepare by studying the study guide provided by USCIS, practicing with sample questions, and using online resources. Some courses and materials are available to help you understand the content.


Can I request exemptions for the English or civics education exam?


Yes, there are exemptions based on age and residency time. Some older applicants may be eligible for exemptions or more straightforward exams.


Do I need an attorney to apply for citizenship?


It is not mandatory, but it can be helpful, especially if the case is complex. An attorney can provide legal advice, help prepare the application, and address specific issues.


What are the benefits of obtaining citizenship?


Benefits include the right to vote, the ability to petition for family immigration, greater protection against deportation, and eligibility for certain jobs and federal benefits.