Becoming a U.S. citizen is an exciting process. In 2021, the United States bestowed citizenship on over 800,00 people, giving them all the rights and privileges granted to native-born citizens.
But the process can be lengthy, taking anywhere between six months to several years. The amount of time it takes to become a U.S. citizen depends on the route you take and your circumstances.
Pathways to citizenship
The most common way to become a U.S. citizen is through naturalization, which requires you to be a lawful permanent resident for at least three or five years, depending on your situation. After filing an application for naturalization (Form N-400) and paying the filing fee (unless you are exempt), you must attend an interview with a USCIS officer and pass an English and civics test before being approved for citizenship. In 2022, this process took approximately ten months.
Another route to becoming a U.S. citizen is derivative citizenship through family members. Derivative citizenship is a way for certain foreign-born individuals to become U.S. citizens through their parents or grandparents who are or were citizens of the United States.
Someone who serves in the United States military is one way to potentially become a U.S. citizen through expedited naturalization. Military service members and veterans may be eligible for citizenship if they meet specific requirements, such as:
- Being at least 18 years of age
- Having lawful permanent resident status
- Having served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least one year
They still need to file an application for naturalization, but the application fee is waived for military service members and veterans.
No matter which route you take to become a U.S. citizen, it’s essential to understand all the requirements involved and ensure that you meet them to avoid any unnecessary delays. If you find yourself overwhelmed with the process, it’s crucial that you work with someone who can assist with navigating the system and help you achieve your goal of gaining citizenship.