Immigrant advocates say they’ve seen a huge spike in calls and questions about how people can become U.S. citizens since President Trump’s executive orders on immigration and travel.
Many of these immigrants have lived in the country for years but didn’t apply to become citizens earlier, citing a lack of time or money for the application fees.
It’s common for presidential elections and changes in the application process to spur citizenship increases.
Here’s a look at the process of becoming a citizen:
1) Who can naturalize?
Immigrants can apply to become U.S. citizens through naturalization, but the process is not open to everyone.
Most people must live here and have a green card for five years before applying. Spouses of American citizens can generally apply after three years with a green card.
The estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally don’t have a direct path to citizenship. Nor can people here on work visas apply to become U.S. citizens without first getting green cards and going through the requisite wait.
There is a special process for immigrants in the military. Those serving since September 11, 2001 can immediately apply for citizenship.
2) How can immigrants apply to become citizens?
To become a U.S. citizen, an immigrant must file an application and pay $725 in fees.
- They must have their fingerprints taken and show they have “good moral character.”
- They must also pass English language and a 10-question U.S. civics test that covers topics such as the Founding Fathers, Constitution and the presidency.
- If approved for naturalization, immigrants attend a ceremony and take an oath as new American citizens.
- Typically, the process takes between five and six months.
3) What is the difference between a Green Card and Citizenship?
With a green card, immigrants can live and work in the United States. But they still retain their country’s passport and can’t obtain most federal government jobs, vote in national elections or serve on a jury.
In addition, green card holders who are convicted of crimes can lose their legal status and be deported — not the case with U.S. citizens.
Once immigrants naturalize, they can apply for a U.S. passport and register to vote. It is also easier for them to bring relatives to join them here from overseas.
- Published on 22 February 2017 - Courtesy: Associated Press (AP)