Being a U.S. citizen is a privilege that comes with certain perks and obligations: You can vote, apply for federal jobs, serve on a jury, and bring your families to the country.
But for many who are waiting to be able to call themselves an American, the path to citizenship can be daunting.
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics, 8.8 million legal permanent residents were eligible to naturalize in 2012, but only 757,434 became citizens that year.
So what exactly does it take to become one?
For starters, you have to be a permanent resident and have lived in your state for at least three months before filling out the 20-plus page application. You also need to be able to read, write and speak basic English. The cost starts at $680, compared to just $60 two decades ago. It goes up even more if you hire a lawyer or are filing for additional family members.
Next, you will be interviewed by immigration services and take some tests, including one on civics. A sample question you could be asked: If both the President and Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President? (Answer: The Speaker of the House.)
If you pass, and the government approves, you will then take the oath of allegiance. During a ceremony, you have the chance to say the words that officially make you an American: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Credits: Armando Mendez, Walter Collins