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How Do I Become a United States Citizen?

Posted on February 19th, 2019 at 4:14 PM

If you need to consult with an attorney or would like more information on citizenship, please contact the Erie County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service.

A person who is not a citizen of the United States may apply to become one through a process called naturalization. The first step that you should take to apply for United States Citizenship is to obtain an application to file a Petition for Naturalization (N-400). This application is available from the Immigration and Naturalization Service or the International Institute of Erie. The closest office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service is located in Pittsburgh at 314 Federal Building, 1000 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15222. The International Institute of Erie is located at 517 East 26th Street, Erie, Pennsylvania, 16504 (814-452-3935). You can either write or call the office and an Application for Naturalization will be sent to you. To order forms call 1-800-870-3676.

As a general rule, the only people who can apply to become United States Citizens are those who have been living legally in the United States for a period of time. If you have been living illegally in the United States, you should consult a lawyer to learn what legal rights you have.

If you are eligible to file a Petition for Naturalization, you will be required to submit two photographs of yourself. The application requests such information as: your place of birth and country of current citizenship, your spouse and children's information, your address for the past five years, and your place of employment, if any, during the past five years. The professional photographer must take two photographs. Look in the yellow pages of the phone book or online under the heading "passport services” for the name of a qualified photographer.

You will also be required to go to Buffalo INS to have fingerprints taken. The application will also ask you to state whether you believe in the Constitution and form of government of the United States.

Once you have completed your application, you should mail it to the USCIS, P.O. Box 4380, Chicago, IL 60680-4380. If your application is accepted, the Immigration and Naturalization Service will schedule a hearing where you must appear in person and take a test on your knowledge of the history, principles and form of government of the United States. There are very few exemptions   from this requirement. You will also be tested on your ability to read, write and speak English. If your application is accepted and if you pass these tests, you will be eligible for citizenship as a United States citizen. If you want to become a United States citizen, you will be required to take an oath of allegiance to the United States and you must renounce any allegiance or fidelity to any other country. This oath is usually administered by a federal judge in a ceremony at the Federal Courthouse. Once you are sworn in as a Citizen of the United States, you will have the same rights, privileges and protections as a natural born United States citizen.

Regarding children, any child born in the United States is automatically a United States citizen. It does not matter whether the child’s parents are U.S. citizens or not. If you have a foreign-born child under the age of 18 when you become a naturalized citizen, that child may also become a United States citizen. However, this does not happen automatically. You must apply for citizenship for the child - either with your own application, with your spouse’s application or separately.

Information is current as of 2/2019.