How long does it take to become a US citizen in 2020?

Generally, it would normally take around 6 months to a year to go through the process of obtaining US citizenship from start to finish. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 has been a year that has posed industries several problems, with the world's economy taking a huge financial hit. Many countries including the US had to impose strict lockdown rules to try and prevent the spreading of coronavirus within their countries.

This meant that many key businesses and offices had to close down, unable to provide the services that they usually would. This also impacted visa application and US citizenship processes, for a number of different reasons including restrictions placed by the US government and a backlog building due to the offices being closed.

The US closed down the USCIS (US Citizen and Immigration Services) from March 18 through to June, when some offices were re-opened. Due to this long, unprecedented length of closure, there is a huge backlog with application processing which is currently meaning it is taking longer to become a US citizen in 2020 than it would in recent years.

There are many other issues holding up the current process of becoming a US citizenship due to the lockdown restrictions, such as not being able to perform oath ceremonies and not being able to schedule interviews. The re-opening of certain USCIS field offices on the 4 June has started to get the system up and running again but there is no indication of how long the process is now likely to take.

Obtaining a Green Card

You must have a green card if you want to apply for US citizenship, to obtain a green card you would need to be eligible under one of the relevant categories:

Family – As an immediate relative of a US citizen i.e. spouse, unmarried child under 21 of a US citizen, parent of a US citizen aged 21 or over. Other relatives of a US citizen can also be eligible, such as brothers and sisters. If you get engaged to US citizen you can apply for a green card.

Employment – As an immigrant worker who is classed as a first preference worker for having extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. Professors, researchers and multinational manager/executives who meet certain criteria are also in this category. Second preference and third preference workers can also apply for a green card.

Investor – If you invest at least $1 million in a commercial enterprise in the US, you qualify for a green card. Investing $500,000 in a targeted employment area also qualifies the investor.

These are the most common categories but there are some others that you might be eligible for. Once you have obtained a green card to stay in the US, you have part of the requirement of US citizenship.

Applying for US Citizenship

Before you are able to apply for US citizenship, you must be able to satisfy the eligibility requirements which include:

  • You are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder)
  • You are a minimum of 18 years old
  • Can evidence that you have lived continuously in the US for 5 years (or 3 if married to US citizen)
  • Lived in the same US state where you currently live for at least three months.

If these all apply to you then the next step is to file the Form N-400 Application for Naturalization, which will be the first step to getting US citizenship. The application also requires for you to submit numerous supporting documents, such as a copy of your green card and two passport style photographs.

Once you submit the N-400 form along with the required documents, the USCIS will review everything that you have provided and will make a decision on whether you qualify to become a US citizen.

Biometrics Appointment

If you are deemed to qualify, the next step is to arrange a biometrics appointment. This is where your fingerprints are taken. It usually takes around 1 month after you have sent your application for the USCIS to send you the letter that confirms the details of your biometrics appointment. Your fingerprints are used to confirm your identity but they will also be used by the FBI to run checks.

Citizenship Interview and Exa

The next step is to have your interview, where you will also need to bring any documents that have been requested in your interview confirmation letter. During the interview, you will usually be asked questions related to your eligibility, such as the relative or employer that has enabled you to qualify for a green card.

Generally, your exam will also be scheduled for the same day as your interview. The exam involves English language skills and Civics questions. Your English skills will be tested in speaking, reading and writing formats and your Civics test includes 10 questions about US history and government. These are selected from a possible 100 questions and you can easily get a copy of the questions to study them before your exam takes place.

Your Application Decision

If you pass your interview and exam then you will get your application approved. If you fail part of your exam, you will have the opportunity to take it one more time. If you fail it a second time, your application will be denied and your only option then will be to submit an appeal.

Oath of Allegiance

The final step of becoming a US Citizen is taking the Oath of Allegiance and getting your Certificate of Naturalization. You are then a US citizen!

The process for becoming a US citizen can vary greatly but it helps to make sure that you have all of the necessary documents, are well prepared for the interview and exam, you don’t miss any appointments or deadlines and make sure that your contact details are valid. For some people it can take several years to go through the process of becoming a US citizen, but for others it can be much quicker if the application details are more straightforward.




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