Citizenship 101

Welcome to Part I of Citizenship 101!

Oftentimes as soon as they arrive in Sioux Falls our clients and students ask when they can apply for citizenship because they want to bring their whole family. Following are the answers to some of their frequently asked questions about the long road to citizenship.        A picture of a passport and flag with words US Citizenship

When can a refugee apply for citizenship?

  • As a refugee with a green card, you can apply 5 years after you entered the US. You need to be able to understand, read and write English. You need a clean police record with no disqualifying convictions and be a person of good moral character.

When can the spouse of a US citizen apply for citizenship?

  • A spouse of a US citizen can apply for citizenship after having been a green card holder, legally married to and living with the US spouse for 3 years, provided they fulfill the same prerequisites as in the previous question.

How long does it take to become a citizen?

  • Once you have filed your citizenship application you will usually receive the receipt notice and your appointment for fingerprints within 2 to 3 weeks. Then the wait begins. Your citizenship interview will not be scheduled for at least another 9 months. If you pass the interview you are required to attend the next citizenship ceremony in your state. At that ceremony you are sworn in to become a US citizen!

What do I need to know for the citizenship interview?

  • You need to be able to speak, understand, read and write English. During the interview you are given 3 chances to read one sentence and write one sentence. You will answer questions about your citizenship application and you are required to answer correctly 6 out of 10 questions about US history, government and geography. If you do not pass the first interview you have another chance to do again the part you missed the first time.

What fees are associated with the citizenship application?

  • The application fee right now is $725, which includes fingerprints and pictures. If you receive food stamps, social security or if your household income is below 150% of the federal poverty level the application is free.

Can I reschedule my citizenship interview?

  • Yes, you can, but you need to have a very good reason. You are hospitalized, you have a family emergency or deteriorating road conditions and/or bad weather prevent you from traveling to your interview site. Contact your attorney and they will request the change.

Stay tuned for more FAQs about citizenship!

A picture of muliple people holding flags.

Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor, with the assistance of Janice Godtland, Immigration Lawyer, both at the LSS Center for New Americans in Sioux Falls.

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