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Kevin O'Flaherty

How Long Do I Have to Wait for a Citizenship Decision?

In this article, we will discuss what could happen after you submit your citizenship application (N400) to USCIS and who should apply for citizenship. Citizenship is a privilege that brings several rights and obligations to its recipients. Citizenship is not a right for foreign-born noncitizens.  

Once a person becomes a citizen, they gain access to all the rights and duties that citizenship brings. An applicant for citizenship needs to show that they qualify for citizenship under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The most cherished rights that most noncitizens would receive from citizenship are those related to the right to vote and participate in elections and the right to seek particular government employment.

Who can apply for citizenship?

Generally, a legal permanent resident (LPR) can apply for citizenship when they have been a permanent resident for at least five years. There are exceptions to this 5-year rule, but this is the period of continuous residence that most people would need to show to qualify for citizenship. The process of obtaining citizenship is known as naturalization. Only LPRs who did not derive citizenship through any other way can apply for citizenship. Additionally, only adults (18 and over) can apply for citizenship. People younger than 18 may become automatic citizens through their parents’ naturalization or citizenship at birth.  

For instance, a child younger than 18 who had LPR status may become an automatic citizen if he comes to live in the US in the care of one or both of their US Citizen parents. In this situation, applying for naturalization would be improper since the child is already a citizen. These individuals may still require proof of citizenship to get a passport. There is another application to receive proof of citizenship for those who derived citizenship through their parents. We will discuss this separate application in a future article.  

What do you need to show to qualify for citizenship?

An individual needs to possess the following requirements to qualify for citizenship:  

Here you can find the information listed above in flowchart format.  

How long does the process take?

Currently, USCIS is taking on average 12 to 20 months to process most applications. COVID may also be delaying the process. A request to expedite the application can be made when the application is filed or during the adjudication period.  USCIS may consider an expedite request if it meets one or more of the following criteria:  

  • Severe financial loss to a company or person;  
  • Urgent humanitarian reasons;  
  • Compelling US government interests; or  
  • Clear USCIS error.  

I don’t speak English, what can I do?

There are some exceptions to the English requirements for citizenship. An applicant for naturalization may avoid learning English if:  

  • Be a permanent resident for at least 20 years, and be over 50 years of age; or  
  • Be a permanent resident for at least 15 years, and be over 55 years of age; or  
  • Be a permanent resident for at least 20 years, and be over 65 years of age. If applicants fit within this category, they also qualify for a simplified version of the US Civics test portion.  

Can I apply for citizenship if I have an impediment that does not allow me to learn English or US civics?

A person who wants to receive exceptions from the testing requirements for naturalization due to an illness may be able to do so. Form N648 allows an applicant for citizenship to apply for an exception to citizenship requirements based on medical issues they may be facing. The applicant’s doctor is the person who should be filling out the form. The doctor should go through all the questions, check the appropriate boxes, and fill in the diagnostics information to tell USCIS why the applicant cannot learn English, learn the civics exam, be exempt from the writing portion, etc. These accommodations should be requested at the time of filing the application. It is up to USCIS to approve or deny your request for modifications during the interview stage of the process. If the applicant’s petition for accommodation gets denied, the applicant will need to take the entire examination.  

What happens when the application is denied?

Once the application is denied, the applicant may be able to appeal or apply right away to try again. It will depend on the reason for denial and the best course of action. USCIS should supply the applicant with its decision in writing if the application is approved or denied. Suppose the application is denied for failure to pass one of the exams. In that case, USCIS will give you a second opportunity to pass the examination. If, on the other hand, USCIS decides that the applicant is either deportable or that their green card was improperly granted, we recommend speaking with an immigration attorney. For more information, read our article on the full 10 step process to become an American citizen.

If you have further questions or need help with your immigration application, we would be glad to help. Please give the law offices of O’Flaherty Law a call at 630-324-6666 to schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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