Several million noncitizens, or aliens, live in the US. Some come to study, to work, or to visit relatives. They remain citizens of their own countries & eventually return home. Other aliens plan to live here forever & become naturalized citizens. More than half a million immigrants (people who move permanently to a new country; gain American citizenship each year).
Beginning the Process
Aliens who want to become U.S. citizens must first sign a statement saying just that. This Declaration of Intention is then filed w/ the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For most aliens, the next step comes after living in the U.S. at least 5 years. Aliens who are married to citizens wait only 3 years. If they are at least 18 years old & have lived in the US for at least 3 months in the state where they seek naturalization, they may file an application for citizenship.
During "The Beginning Process"
Many immigrants take special classes to prepare for citizenship.
- After the paperwork is checked, the alien has an interview w/ a USCIS official.
- The USCIS official wants to make sure the alien meets the necessary requirements & has a good character.
The applicant must also take a citizenship exam that consists of questions about reading, writing, & speaking English. Also basic facts about the history & government of the United States. Then, the USCIS makes its decision.
Oath of Allegiance
If the application is accepted, the final step in naturalization is attending a ceremony & pledging an oath of allegiance. The aliens swears to be loyal to this country above all others, to obey the Constitution & other laws, & to perform military or other duties if needed. Then the person signs a document & is declared a citizen of the USA. If he/she has children under 18, they automatically become naturalized citizens, too.