Applying for Naturalization and Naturalization: The Final and Greatest Reward

Many clients ask, “Is it hard to become an American citizen?” Applying for naturalization is not complicated, but it is not easy to become a United States citizen. Those of us who claim that status simply because we were born here tend to take our citizenship for granted. We shouldn’t. It is a gift for which we should be grateful; one that is coveted by people from every corner of the world.

Applying for Naturalization – Is it hard to become an American citizen?

What’s so tough about becoming a United States citizen? Applying for naturalization is not complicated, but getting to that point is complicated and lengthy. Nearly everyone who is eligible for naturalization must have resided, as a lawful permanent resident, or “green card holder,” in the United States for several years. Becoming a lawful permanent resident is an arduous process that begins with proving that you are eligible because of a close family relationship with a United States citizen or permanent resident or because you have a job skill that is in demand, along with a job offer. The process concludes with an assessment of whether your background – including health, legal issues and financial status – precludes you from becoming a permanent resident. The process of becoming a permanent resident, if successful, generally takes from two to twenty years. Add to that the usual requirement that one live three to five years in the United States as a permanent resident before applying for naturalization, and the road to citizenship seems interminable!

In addition to completing an application, those wanting to become naturalized United States citizens must pass an oral examination on United States history, government and geography. For many baby boomers, those questions are easy; but, for our young people . . . not so much. I’m afraid that the televised exchanges between Jay Leno and various young adults typify the younger generation’s level of knowledge about our country’s history, government and geography. One question Leno posed was, “How many stars are there on the United States flag?” The answer: “The wind won’t stop blowing so I can count them.” Another question was, “Can you name our neighboring country to the north?” The answer: “Mexico.”

Our newly-naturalized United States citizens not only know the answers to these basic questions; they are proud of their knowledge. Most study very hard to prepare for citizenship. To them, United States citizenship is an honor and a blessing.

If you have never been to a naturalization ceremony, why not attend one? The speakers are usually inspirational, and the excitement and emotion of the new citizens is palpable. Most importantly, it is a powerful reminder of what a treasure United States citizenship is.

This article should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult an immigration attorney for advice specific to your situation.