As one of the richest countries in the world and also as a country that offers a vast array of personal freedoms, the United States is among the most coveted places to live in the world. Each year, thousands of people from other countries, particularly from countries that are poor or that limit religious and civic freedoms, long to move to the United States and even become U.S. citizens. However, according to U.S. law, there is a distinct process for these individuals to follow, which includes an application, interview, testing and finally an oath. Although the process may look daunting initially, it can easily be broken down into the following four parts.
First, it is important to understand which people can even begin the application process by filling out the Form N-400 through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. The individual needs to be at least 18 years old and needs to have held a Green Card for at least five years. The person must also meet several requirements regarding how much time they have spent in the United States and in the state in which they are applying. Each of these requirements is closely monitored by the local USCIS office to ensure close compliance.
The application itself is lengthy and covers personal information, such as residency, as well as questions regarding criminal records, employment and family history. The USCIS closely monitors the criminal record especially since 1996 when Robert Bratt, a senior government official, overhauled the naturalization program. Since that time, the process has become increasingly computerized and includes several safeguards, such as individual fingerprinting.
The part of the process that causes applicants the most anxiety is the testing session. Two tests are included in the process, which are the English test and the United States civics test. Testing occurs at the same time as the USCIS interview, which is by appointment only. The English test covers reading, writing and speaking in English to ensure that potential citizens properly understand the official language of the United States. The civics test includes information about U.S. history, including presidents and American democratic government. Applicants have up to two chances to pass each of the tests.
The final portion of the naturalization process is the taking the Oath of Allegiance. This is the most anticipated step for most people. In fact, many people celebrate the anniversary of their oath taking each following year. The oath is performed in a memorable ceremony. After this step, the individual will receive a Certificate of Naturalization and officially be recognized as a U.S. citizen.
Becoming a United States citizen is a dream that thousands of people realize each year. While there are nowhere near as many immigrants today as there were 100 or more years ago, immigrants are still a vital part of U.S. culture. These naturalized citizens that come from a variety of countries and backgrounds have much to add to the beautiful tapestry of American culture.