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How Long is the Path to Citizenship?

By Jarbath Pena Law Group

Woman waving U.S. citizenship flags overlooking body of water

Anyone who has tried to immigrate to the United States knows that the immigration process can be confusing and lengthy. There are many forms to fill out and submit, and even if you can figure out what to submit and when, the system is full of delays. These facts leave many aspiring citizens wondering how long it takes to become an American citizen.


Generally speaking, it takes approximately 18-24 months to complete the entire naturalization process. This figure includes applying, application processing, attending the citizenship exam and interview, and taking the oath of allegiance at the naturalization ceremony. Today, the lawyers of the Jarbath Peña Law Group will discuss the intricacies of the naturalization process along with approximate time frames for each step. 


First You Must Qualify for Citizenship

Before you can apply for citizenship, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:


  • You must be 18 or older;

  • You must have been an Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) for at least five years;

  • You must have continuously resided in America for a minimum of five years;

  • You must have been physically present in the U.S. for 30 months or more out of the previous five years;

  • You must have lived in the state you currently live in for at least three months; and

  • You must be of good moral character.


The timeline can be shorter if you got your green card based on marriage to a citizen or if you qualify because you served in the military. But once you qualify, the naturalization process can begin.

Man reviewing citizenship application while woman holds passport

Steps to Naturalize and the Accompanying Time Frame


There are five steps you must take to become a naturalized citizen. Each of these steps involves a certain time frame, which can vary. We already discussed the fact that you need to qualify before you can apply for citizenship. So, let’s look at the remaining steps and the typical time each step can take.


Submit Application

Once you qualify to naturalize, the first thing you’ll do is fill out and submit the Application for Naturalization. This form usually takes a few days to complete, and when finished, you would submit it to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). When you submit this form, you must also provide the USCIS documents showing that you meet the requirements to apply for citizenship. You must also pay the application fee. The fee is subject to change, so be sure to check the fee schedule when you are ready to apply.


When attempting to prove that you meet the eligibility requirements, the most common challenge is proving good moral character. If you have had any interactions with the law—such as getting arrested—you will need to provide documentation of the disposition of that case. If that is needed, completing the form could take weeks or months.


Processing Times

Hand writing Time to Plan for Citizenship

The amount of time it takes for USCIS to process your form varies depending on what part of the country you are in. For example, at the time of writing this blog, it is taking seven (7) months to process your citizenship application in Honolulu, Hawaii, but it is taking twelve (12) months in Fort Myers, Florida. Overall, the time you should allow for processing your form is approximately 14 months. And while it is not standard or typical, in 2024, while it is an election year, it is taking less than six (6) months.


Appeals

Keep in mind that USCIS might deny your application. If they do, that will obviously delay your naturalization process—but you can file an appeal within 30 days of getting your denial letter. Your lawyer can help with this process.


Biometrics

USCIS will schedule you for a biometrics appointment where they will take your fingerprints, picture, and signature. It should take about a month or two from the day you submitted your application for the USCIS to notify you of your biometrics appointment. The appointment itself is of a very short duration, usually about 20 minutes or so.


Interview and Test

Three people reviewing citizenship application

As part of the process, you will need to take a civics test and participate in a naturalization interview. The test and interview do not take long—generally less than an hour for both. But, you will have to study for the test, where your interviewer will ask 10 questions from a list of 100 questions that you can access online. To pass, you need to answer 6 out of the 10 questions correctly. Your lawyer can tell you more about how to prepare for the interview and test.


USCIS should schedule this part of the process approximately 14 months after the submission of your application. And if you fail the test, you will be able to take it up to two more times within the next 60-90 days.


Oath of Allegiance

Within one to two months of your successful interview and exam, USCIS will schedule you to take the oath of allegiance at a naturalization ceremony. You will be with other immigrants who are naturalizing at this ceremony. The oath involves swearing to uphold and defend the principles of the U.S. Constitution. At this ceremony, you will get your Certificate of Naturalization.


We Are Here to Help You on Your Journey!

Generally speaking, the time frame for naturalization can be summed up as follows:


  • Application—this can take as little as a few days if you have all the information and are prepared to submit the form, but can take up to 14 months to process;

  • Provide biometrics—you can usually complete this step within four to eight weeks of submitting your application;

  • Interview and test—the interview and test usually occur approximately 14 months after submitting your application, but if you fail the test you can retake it; and

  • Take the oath of allegiance—the naturalization ceremony completes the process and grants you citizenship after all the previous steps are complete.


As stated, the overall process can take anywhere from a year to two years.


We at The Jarbath Peña Law Group know how hard it can be to wait patiently to become a citizen. The process is a long one and can be confusing if you don’t have the proper guidance. There are so many forms to fill out—and you need to know when each one needs to be submitted and how to fill out the information properly so as to avoid unnecessary delays.


Attorney Fritznie Jarbath and Melisa Pena

We are your South Florida immigration attorneys—and we can help the process go more smoothly and efficiently! We can prepare your forms properly, we can keep tabs on your application to be sure it’s making its way through the system, and we can help if any snags arise or if your application gets denied. 


 You can set up your free initial consultation today by calling 305-615-1005 or through our online contact form. We look forward to putting our know-how to work for you! 


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