Close-up of N-400, a Certificate of Naturalization and the USA flag

Know the Difference between Citizenship and Naturalization

If you or someone you know is currently going through the U.S. immigration system, you understand how complex it can be. One question that frequently comes up is, “What is a certificate of citizenship vs a certificate of naturalization?”. In this article, we will look at the differences between citizenship vs naturalization, as well as the naturalization process and what you can expect if you, or someone you know, intends to go through this. 

Is Naturalization and Citizenship the Same Thing? 

 The biggest difference between U.S. citizenship vs naturalization is the process an individual goes through to become a citizen. Naturalization is the process of applying for citizenship for foreign individuals over 18 years old. A certificate of citizenship is for someone who gains U.S. citizenship because they were either born in the United States or a U.S. territory, or they were born to a U.S. citizen. Lawful citizenship can be granted through naturalization, whereas U.S. citizenship is given because of an individual’s relationship with U.S. citizens. 

What is the Naturalization Process? 

If you aren’t a U.S. citizen by birth, you’ll need to review the U.S. citizenship requirements to see if you are eligible to naturalize and become a citizen. Below are the three main criteria you will need to be eligible for U.S. naturalization: 

 Am I a permanent resident of the United States and do I hold a green card (or permanent residency card)? 

  • Am I at least 18 years old? 
  • Have I been a permanent resident of the U.S. for at least five years? 

If you have answered “yes” to the above three questions, it is likely that you will be eligible to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen. The next step in the naturalization process is to fill out Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. You can do this either online or file it by mail. You must also submit the supporting documents the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asks for. This documentation includes: 

  • Two passport-style photographs 
  • A copy of your permanent residency card 
  • If you’re married, a copy of your marriage certificate 
  • If you’re in the military, a copy of your official military orders. 

The next step in the naturalization process is to pay the filing fee of $640 along with a biometrics fee of $85. Once the USCIS receives your submission, you will be given a receipt with a case number. Typically, the processing time can take between five and a half to eight months. Once your form has been processed and you get your biometrics taken, USCIS will then schedule an interview and a U.S. citizenship test. The interview will determine if your English-speaking ability is adequate, as well as a civics test that is composed of 20 questions. You must answer at least twelve of these correctly to pass.  

If you pass these tests in the naturalization process, you will then be required to attend a naturalization ceremony where you will take the Oath of Allegiance and be presented with a Certificate of Naturalization.  

If you are considering going through the naturalization process and want legal guidance you can trust, it’s best to work with an immigration attorney. At Dominguez Law Firm, PLLC, we work together with our clients to get them through the process and work hard to achieve the best result possible. Reach out today to discuss your specific immigration needs or concerns.