Naturalization is the way in which a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen. A person is eligible to apply for naturalization if he or she is at least 18 years old when filing the Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization) and has been a legal permanent resident for at least 5 years (or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen). There are other eligibility requirements, such as good moral character. Once all the preliminary processes are complete, the applicant will have an interview with USCIS. During this interview, an officer will ask questions about the person’s history and background in addition to queries about data on the submitted N-400 Form. There will also be a required assessment of English language proficiency skills and a Civics test, unless the applicant qualifies for an exemption. The English test is made up of reading, writing, and speaking components. The Civics test includes important U.S. government and history topics, such as identifying the Declaration of Independence.
Due to COVID-19, all naturalization ceremonies have been paused for several months. Ceremonies have only recently begun to happen again- but in some places, with a twist! This year, because of the pandemic, applicants for naturalization who completed all the required steps and processes and were only waiting for the official ceremony to become a citizen have been able to have their long-awaited ceremony through a “drive-thru” format. Applicants generally wait years to become citizens, starting at the very beginning of the process with an application for a Green Card. The wait time for just the naturalization application can take 6 months to a year in normal times, but it is much longer at the present juncture due to the closures of most offices as a result of the pandemic. These “drive-thru” naturalization ceremonies represent a small but meaningful light in the midst of an otherwise bleak time for many people who have long awaited the day that they could officially be sworn in as a U.S. citizen. Here at the Shulman Law Group, we would like to congratulate all the newly minted “drive-thru” U.S. citizens!