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A Comprehensive Guide to U.S. Citizenship in 2024

Updated: Mar 1

Woman holding US Passport

Obtaining citizenship in the United States is a significant milestone for immigrants, offering numerous opportunities and privileges, including the right to vote in elections and help determine the path of our democracy. As of 2024, the process has become more streamlined, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) expediting naturalization applications significantly over the past few years. In this guide, the attorneys of the Jarbath Peña Law Group will walk you through the prerequisites, steps, and recent improvements in the citizenship application process—empowering you to embark on this journey confidently.

Prerequisites to Applying for Citizenship

Statute of Liberty for US Citizenship

Before beginning the process of applying for citizenship, you must meet certain criteria set forth by immigration laws. These prerequisites include the following:

  • Permanent Residency: You must hold lawful permanent residency (Green Card status) for a specified period, typically five years, although exceptions may apply. For instance, if you are married to a U.S. citizen, this period shrinks to three years.

  • Physical Presence: You must demonstrate continuous physical presence in the United States for a certain period, usually at least half of the residency requirement, without extended absences that may disrupt eligibility. An extended absence usually means that you were out of the country for more than six months during the required timeframe.

  • Residence in the Jurisdiction: You must have lived in the state or immigration jurisdiction where you will be applying for citizenship for a minimum of three months before submitting your application.

  • Good Moral Character: You must exhibit good moral character during the years before applying for citizenship. This involves adhering to U.S. laws, paying taxes, child support, and avoiding involvement in certain criminal activities. While some criminal activities will not completely exclude you from becoming a citizen, if you do have a criminal record, you do want to obtain the help from an experienced immigration attorney to navigate the process.

Person studying for citizenship exam
  • Language: Proficiency in the English language—both written and spoken—is essential since the naturalization interview and test are in English. This requirement may be waived for certain individuals based on certain medical conditions, age, or length of residency.

  • Knowledge of American Government and History: You will have to take and pass a test that evaluates your knowledge of U.S. history and our governmental structures. You can check with your lawyer if you believe you qualify for an exemption to this requirement based on your age or the length of time you’ve been a permanent resident.

For a comprehensive understanding of eligibility criteria and exceptions, refer to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and USCIS guidelines. However, it can be very confusing to decipher the requirements and exceptions and any mistakes can significantly delay your application, or worse yet, cause the USCIS to deny it altogether. Therefore, it is wise to contact a knowledgeable attorney at the Jarbath Pena Law Group. We can help you determine if you have fulfilled the requirements so you can begin the application process. If you are missing any requirements, we can help you figure out what is missing, how best to rectify the omission, if an exception applies, and we can help you streamline the application process.

Steps to Becoming a Citizen

Once eligibility criteria are met, the path to citizenship involves several key steps:

  • Prepare and Submit Immigration Application: The Application for Naturalization, is the official form to initiate the citizenship process. Completing this form accurately and providing the necessary documentation is crucial as any omissions or mistakes could significantly delay the processing of your application.

Fingerprinting for US Citizenship
  • Biometrics Appointment: After submitting Form N-400, applicants are typically scheduled for a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photographs, and signatures for background checks.

  • Interview and Civics Test: We mentioned this test in the prerequisites section above, but the USCIS will schedule an interview to test you on your knowledge of the English language as well as your knowledge of how our government works. This interview also serves to review the application and verify eligibility.

  • Oath of Allegiance: If your application is successful and you are granted citizenship, you will attend a naturalization ceremony, where you will take the Oath of Allegiance and officially become a U.S. citizen.

Military for Citizenship
  • Selective Service Registration: Male applicants who are between the ages of 18 and 25 must register with the Selective Service. Some exceptions might apply.

A seasoned immigration attorney can help you move through these steps expeditiously, getting you to your goal of naturalization faster and with far less uncertainty and stress. Let us take the guesswork out of this very important process and give you peace of mind.

Faster Processing of Naturalization Applications in 2024

In recent years, USCIS has made significant strides in improving the efficiency of naturalization application processing. As of 2024, processing times have notably decreased compared to previous years, thanks to streamlined procedures, enhanced technology, and increased staffing.

According to USCIS reports, average processing times for naturalization applications have been significantly reduced in recent years. According to one such report, the processing time for Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization) went from 10 months in 2019, down to 5.2 months in 2024! This is a decrease of almost 50%. In fact, in the fiscal year 2022, the USCIS completed over one million applications—signifying the largest number of naturalizations in 15 years. This expedited process also decreased the agency’s backlog by a whopping 62%! The same trends continued through 2023 and to the present time. These improvements signify a concerted effort by USCIS to prioritize and expedite citizenship applications, enabling eligible individuals to become citizens more swiftly. This trend could benefit you now. Contact us to find out how and get the process started.

Seize the Opportunity!

With USCIS expediting naturalization applications, there’s no better time to pursue U.S. citizenship, especially with the 2024 election on the horizon. Becoming a citizen allows you to exercise your right to vote and actively participate in shaping the country’s future.

Having a reputable law firm by your side can further expedite the citizenship process, ensuring that you meet all requirements promptly and accurately. The Jarbath Peña Law Group is committed to assisting you every step of the way, from initial eligibility assessment to final naturalization, empowering you to embrace your rights and responsibilities as a U.S. citizen.

Miami Divorce Lawyer Fritznie Jarbath and Immigration Lawyer Melisa Pena

In conclusion, the path to U.S. citizenship in 2024 is marked by enhanced efficiency and faster processing times. By understanding the prerequisites, steps, and recent improvements in the application process, you can embark on this journey with confidence, knowing that citizenship is within reach. Call us or use our online contact form today to get started!

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