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Naturalization: the process of becoming a U.S. citizen

For many immigrants in Florida, citizenship is one of their ultimate goals. In order to become a U.S. citizen, a foreign national must meet certain qualifications. If those are met, he or she is eligible to go through the legal process of becoming a citizen, known as naturalization.

To be eligible for naturalized citizenship, an applicant must be at least 18-years-old and have permanent resident status, that is, have a green card. The applicant must also have been a resident of the United States and physically present in the country for a period of at least five years. There are some exceptions to the residency requirement for trips outside the U.S. Finally, the applicant must have good moral character.

The first step is completing Form N-400, the Application for Naturalization. The applicant must have two photographs taken of him- or herself. These photos must meet certain requirements of including size, pose and lighting. The application and the photos must be sent to the correct U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center for processing. Once the application is received, the applicant will receive a letter from USCIS setting up an appointment for fingerprinting. This is a security requirement designed to prevent immigration fraud.

The next steps are the immigration interview and citizenship tests. The applicant will receive an appointment for the interview, in which he or she will be asked questions about their background. The applicant must also take tests in civics and English proficiency.

Once these steps have been successfully completed, the applicant will be notified of a date for the citizenship ceremony. At the ceremony, the applicant will take an oath of allegiance to the United States and become a U.S. citizen.

The naturalization process is typically very straightforward. It does, however, require preparation and careful attention to detail, and this post cannot guarantee any particular result in an individual's application for naturalization. If a person is concerned about potential obstacles to becoming a citizen, such as back taxes owed or a past criminal conviction, it is a good idea to consult an experienced immigration attorney before beginning the naturalization process.

Source: FindLaw, "The Basics of Naturalization," accessed Nov. 19, 2016

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