Naturalization is how immigrants become citizens of the United States. If you would like to apply for naturalization, you should use the Application for Naturalization – Form N-400. Additionally, if you would like to apply for citizenship for a child who is under 18 years old, you should use the “Application for Certificate of Citizenship – Form N-600.
There are many paths to citizenship. You may be eligible to apply for a green card and then for citizenship through your family, a job offer or employment, refugee or asylum status, or other special provisions. In some cases, you may even be able to self-petition.
Eligibility categories are:
- Family Based
- Job or employment based
- Refugee or asylum
- Special programs
Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens do not have to wait for a visa, and there is no limit to the number of visas that can be issued unlike with some other eligibility categories.
Immediate relatives include:
- Parents of a U.S. citizen
- Spouses of a U.S. citizen
- Unmarried children under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
Job or employment based
People who would like to become immigrants based on employment or a job offer may apply for permanent residence or an immigrant visa when they are outside of the country. Entry in this category is limited.
The U.S. Department of State is the agency that allocates and grants visa numbers. Employment based visas are limited to 140,000 per year. Additionally, there are limits to the percentage of visas that can be allotted to each country. Currently, about 234,000 people have applied for employment-based adjustment of status green cards in the United States and are waiting for a visa. If you are interested in obtaining a visa in a competitive category such as employment, it is particularly helpful to have the advice and assistance of an experienced immigration attorney.
Refugee or asylum
If you were admitted to the United States as a refugee or as a qualifying spouse or child of a refugee, you are required to apply for permanent residence one year after your entry into the United States. Additionally, if you were granted asylum in the United States or are a qualifying spouse or child of an asylee, you may apply for permanent residence one year after the grant of your asylum status.
Petitioning for adjustment of status can take several months to more than a year and will require biometrics and a formal interview. If the person petitioning is the spouse of a United States citizen, then the immigration officer conducting the interview will require proof of a valid marriage. While the Adjustment of Status Application is being processed, many people also file for employment authorization and “advance parole” allowing them to work and travel to and from the United States prior to completion.
If you would like to apply for citizenship, consult with an experienced immigration attorney. It is always a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney when you prepare an immigration-related petition or waiver request to obtain legal advice and assistance. Also, an attorney can assist you in identifying and collecting the best evidence to support your petition or waiver request.