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Obtaining US citizenship: answers to the main questions

Are you thinking about applying for citizenship but still have questions? Edition CitizenPath offers answers to seven basic questions asked by people preparing to apply for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, also known as the application for US citizenship.

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Now is the right time to apply for citizenship. Permanent residents who complete the N-400 form by the end of November can take the current citizenship exam. Applicants who apply for naturalization on or after December 1, 2020 will take an updated version of the test. New Citizenship Test Includes More Questionsthat test your understanding of US history and civil law, but you still have to answer 60% of the questions correctly. The USCIS officer will ask up to 20 questions, and you must answer 12 of them correctly to pass.

In addition, naturalization fees are likely to rise next year. The Trump administration has tried to significantly increase them in 2020. While an injunction has blocked this rise for now, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will likely require higher fees to continue operating.

An estimated 8 million permanent residents are eligible for citizenship, but exercise caution before taking this big step. Here's what many of them want to know.

Can I apply for citizenship with an expired green card?

Renewing a green card is expensive. If you are about to apply for US citizenship, it is clear that you do not want to pay for both documents. You can file an N-400 Application for Naturalization with an expired green card, but you must have it in your hand. If your card is lost or stolen, you need to replace it before applying for citizenship.

While you can use an expired green card to apply for citizenship, you need to understand that the next 8-12 months may pass without proof of permanent residence. An expired green card can create other problems, such as international travel, getting a job in the United States and a home loan.

How much does it cost to apply for citizenship?

Applying for citizenship costs a little more than renewing a green card. But in the long run, it's actually much cheaper. In most cases, the total USCIS application fee for US citizenship is $ 725. This includes a $ 640 registration fee and a biometric acquisition fee of $ 85.

But how much does it cost not to apply for citizenship? Compared to the long-term cost of remaining a permanent resident, obtaining US citizenship is much cheaper. For example, the average 30-year-old will pay an additional $ 5313 in USCIS fees over the course of his life if he continues to be a permanent resident.

In recent years, USCIS has made it easier to pay N-400 fees. You can pay by credit card. People with low income or with certain living conditions have the right to be waived. Applicants aged 75 and over are not required to pay a biometric fee. Those who serve in the US military will not pay at all.

On the subject: Receiving benefits is no longer an obstacle to immigration and citizenship: court decision

What if I don't pass the citizenship test?

Many job seekers are surprised to find that the citizenship test is not as difficult as expected. However, if you still do not pass the test, you will be given another opportunity to do so later.

With study materials, taking the citizenship test is easier than ever. After completing Form N-400, you will be offered a test in English and American History and Social Order. If you know what to learn, this can be easy.

  • English test: you are expected to be able to read, write and understand simple vocabulary and use basic grammar. You can even pre-fill your vocabulary.
  • Test in history and social studies. There are only 10 questions so far, and you only need to answer six of them correctly. But these are not unexpected questions. You can study them before the test.

For senior residents (50+) or applicants with disabilities, there are also a few exceptions to the test.

Can I apply for citizenship if I forget to register for military service?

If you forget to register with the Selective Service (register for military registration), this can create a serious problem when applying for citizenship. Men between the ages of 18 and 26 must register and provide proof of naturalization as a US citizen. The registration requirement applies to US citizens, permanent residents, refugees, asylum seekers, and even undocumented aliens. This requirement does not apply to women or foreign citizens in the United States with a nonimmigrant visa (for example, tourists, students, businessmen, etc.). If the applicant does not register with the Selective Service, they will most likely fail to meet the N-400 “good morale” requirement and the application will be rejected.

Applicants between the ages of 18 and 26 can resolve the issue immediately by registering at www.sss.gov. Applicants between the ages of 26 and 31 find themselves in a more difficult position if they forget to register. Too late registration means that they will not be able to demonstrate good moral character in the past five years as permanent residents. Most lawyers recommend that their clients wait until they apply.

However, applicants aged 31 and over will be outside this window. Therefore, refusal to register for military service will not affect such an applicant's five-year history of good moral character.

How does USCIS determine if I am of good moral character?

To be eligible for naturalization, a successful candidate must be a person of good moral character. USCIS will make this decision when reviewing your N-400 application, background checks, and immigration history. Examples of what may indicate a lack of good moral character (list is incomplete):

  • any crime against a person with intent to harm;
  • any crime against property or government involving fraud or malice;
  • two or more crimes punishable by 5 years of imprisonment or more;
  • violation of any US, state or country controlled substances law;
  • habitual drunkenness;
  • illegal gambling;
  • prostitution;
  • polygamy (marriage to more than one person at a time);
  • lying to get immigration benefits;
  • non-payment of alimony established by the court;
  • imprisonment or similar institution for a total of 180 days or more in the past 5 years (or 3 years if you are applying for your marriage to a US citizen);
  • inability to complete a probationary period, conditions of early release or conditional punishment before applying for naturalization;
  • Act of terrorism;
  • harassing someone on the basis of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group.

If you think the “good moral character” requirement may be an issue for you, contact an experienced immigration attorney before filing an N-400.

How long does it take to become a citizen?

The length of the naturalization process can vary depending on several factors, including the number of applications to USCIS and the filing of a well-prepared application. After submitting Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, naturalization usually takes 8-12 months. For some, the period may be shorter, for others, longer.

Typically, there are three stages:

  • making an appointment for biometrics;
  • interview for citizenship;
  • oath ceremony.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

Am I eligible to apply for US citizenship?

Approximately 8 million US lawful permanent residents are eligible for citizenship. In most cases, permanent residents apply based on five years of continuous residence in the United States. To be eligible on this basis, the applicant must:

  • be at least 18 years old;
  • be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 5 years;
  • have continuously resided in the United States as a permanent resident for 5 years prior to applying;
  • be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of 5 years prior to applying;
  • have lived in their state for at least 3 months prior to applying;
  • take a test in English, as well as in the history and social order of the United States;
  • be a person of good moral character.

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