How Long Does It Take for an Immigrant to get U.S. Citizenship in Arizona?
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) statistics show a median processing time of 11.2 months in 2022 for N-400, Application for Naturalization, applications, and while this time was less than the 11.5 months in 2021, it is more than the four years before that. Furthermore, the Arizona Mirror reported only a few years ago that immigrants’ rights groups filed a lawsuit against USCIS and the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over a backlog in processing citizenship applications leaving over 753,000 people waiting to access lawful citizenship and voting rights because the 14,641 naturalization applications pending at the time were more than double the number of pending applications on the same date two years prior when the backlog was 7,105.
Pathway to United States Citizenship
To have United States citizenship, an immigrant will generally need to do all of the following:
- Be at least 18 years of age when filing their N-400, Application for Naturalization
- Be a lawfully admitted permanent resident of the United States, also known as a “permanent resident alien,” “resident alien permit holder,” or “green card holder”
- When filing an application, either has been a resident of the United States for five years or, when a person meets the requirements to file as a spouse of an American citizen, three years
- Demonstrate continuous permanent residence
- Demonstrate physical presence
- Live within in a state or USCIS district for at least three months before filing
- Demonstrate good moral character
- Demonstrate an attachment to the basic principles and ideals of the United States Constitution
- Demonstrate an ability to read, write, speak, and understand basic English
- Demonstrate basic knowledge of American history, government, and civic principles
- Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States
- Receive a Certificate of Naturalization
Steps in the Naturalization Process
Your naturalization process will essentially boil down to five key steps. Here are the steps and their general waiting times
File N-400, Application for Naturalization, with USCIS and wait for processing (anywhere from six months to 18 months)
The location of your residence can have a considerable impact on the amount of time it takes to get your N-400 processed. USCIS receives a significant number of applications every year for citizenship and the agency has several backlogs, which is why it can take well over a year in most cases for USCIS to process the initial application.
You must be certain that your N-400 is as complete as possible when submitting your application. This will mean ensuring you have included all supporting documentation, such as a copy of your Permanent Resident Card (or green card), a copy of your marriage certificate when applicable, a Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service, when applying for naturalization based on military service, a DD Form 214, NGB Form 22, or discharge orders when applying for naturalization based on military service and you are separated from military service, a copy of your official military orders when applying for naturalization based on military service and you are currently serving, evidence of your citizen spouse’s employment abroad when applying under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) § 319(b), and two passport-style photographs when you reside outside the United States.
Provided that you correctly file your Form N-400, USCIS responds by sending you a letter called a Form I-797C, Notice of Action, confirming that the agency has your application. In general, a person should receive a Form I-797C two to three weeks after filing Form N-400.
When an N-400 is not filed correctly, however, then USCIS could send a Form I-797C informing an immigrant that there was a failure to pay a filing fee or requesting other forms of evidence that was lacking in the original application. These kinds of actions will delay the processing of the original N-400, so it is again important to ensure your original application is properly handled the first time.
Attend a Biometrics Appointment (one month from the date USCIS receives the N-400)
After a person files their N-400, USCIS will schedule a biometric services appointment for the applicant at a local Application Support Center (ASC) so they can provide their fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature. USCIS can require and collect biometrics from any applicant, petitioner, sponsor, beneficiary, or other individuals who reside in the United States for any immigration and naturalization benefit.
An appointment notice or Form I-797C, Notice of Action will include the date, time, and location for an ASC appointment. USCIS uses these biometrics not just to verify identity, but also to send the fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) so that the agency can conduct background checks to ensure applicants are of good moral character.
When a biometrics appointment is officially scheduled, you will need to bring your ASC appointment notice or Form I-797C (people who receive multiple biometrics appointment notices should bring all notices to their appointment) and a valid form of photo identification, such as a green card, passport, or driver’s license. Failure to bring required items can lead to appointments needing to be rescheduled and only cause further delays.
Problems can occasionally arise with getting FBI clearance, and applicants may have to obtain police clearance certificates in such cases. This can involve a clearance certificate for each place a person has lived over the past five years.
During USCIS and the FBI processing of biometrics, it is also possible that you may receive a request for evidence from USCIS. USCIS provides a fairly lengthy list of possible evidence that could be the subject of a request for evidence on its website.
Attend a Citizenship interview and exam (One year to 14 months after filing Form N-400)
When you complete the biometrics appointment, USCIS sends you another appointment notice with an invitation to your naturalization interview and exam. The notice should include a date, time, and location for the interview and people generally receive the notice four to eight months after filing their N-400.
The actual interview is usually scheduled somewhere between one year and 14 months after a person files their N-400. A person does have the right to request another date when the originally scheduled date does not work for them, but you should know that rescheduling could also add several months to the processing of your application so it is almost always in your best interest to attend on the date and time at the location USCIS originally schedules for you.
At a naturalization interview, a USCIS officer asks an applicant questions about their application and background. Unless the applicant qualifies for an exemption, they will also take a naturalization test that consists of an English and civics test.
An English test will require an applicant to demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak basic English. The civics test will involve an applicant answering questions about the American government and history.
When it comes to the English test, an applicant’s ability to speak and understand English is determined by a USCIS officer during the eligibility interview on Form N-400. The applicant then must read aloud one out of three sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to read in English and write one out of three sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to write in English.
People who filed their Form N-400 on or after December 1, 2020, and before March 1, 2021, and were scheduled for their initial examination before April 19, 2021, can choose to take the 2008 or 2020 civics test, but all others are required to take the 2008 civics test. You can again find the questions you may be asked as part of this test on the USCIS website.
People who pass the exam move on to the next step of the naturalization process, the Oath of Allegiance. Some people may even be able to take the oath and become a citizen on the same day.
People who do not pass the exam will need to retake the part they fail to move on to the Oath of Allegiance. An applicant will have to wait 60 to 90 days to retake the exam.
USCIS renders a decision on the application (One year to 16 months after filing Form N-400)
When an interview goes well and an applicant passes their exam, USCIS could approve the application on the very same day as the citizenship interview and exam provided the agency does not need any other supporting documents. In other cases, USCIS sends decisions in writing within 120 days of interviews and exams through a Form N-652, Notice of Examination Results.
There are generally three outcomes with USCIS at this point:
- USCIS approves the application.
- USCIS continues the application, meaning the agency is placing the application on hold because an applicant did not pass part of the citizenship exam (meaning an applicant must return for a second interview and retake any part of the exam they did not pass) or the applicant did not provide all of the documents or information that USCIS needs to approve the application, which can result in USCIS sending the applicant a Form N-14 that explains what else the applicant needs to provide.
- USCIS denies the application, sending a letter explaining why it chose denial and what options are now available. When applicants believe USCIS made a mistake, they can file appeals within 30 days of receiving the denial letter and USCIS will schedule a hearing within 180 days of receiving the appeal. If a USCIS officer at the appeal denies the application, the applicant can request to have a United States District Court review the case.
Take the Oath of Allegiance and receive the Certificate of Naturalization (One year to 18 months after filing Form N-400)
The text to the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America is available on the USCIS website. This is the final step in becoming a United States citizen.
The Secretary of Homeland Security has the authority to administer the Oath of Allegiance but can delegate the authority to other officials within the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or other employees of the United States. The Oath ceremony will usually be anywhere from two to six weeks after an applicant passes their citizenship exam.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Phoenix Immigration Attorney
Did you or your loved one need assistance with the citizenship process in the United States while living in Arizona? Make sure that you quickly contact Diamondback Legal for dedicated and compassionate representation in all these matters and a commitment to getting you through every single obstacle that may arise.
Our firm understands how frustrating the entire citizenship process can be for people, so we work closely with our clients so they can feel confident that they have somebody by their side every single step along the way. Call us at (602) 755-3199 or contact us online to set up a free consultation that will let us dig into the details of your case and really get a better understanding of everything you are now dealing with.
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