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Becoming a United States Citizen: The Basics of Naturalization

Many people find the immigration process overall to be confusing, vague, and difficult to understand. When applying for citizenship, one of the biggest challenges faced is trying to make sense of all the laws and legal terminologies. 

One term you’ll hear a lot is ‘naturalization.’ While it might sound intimidating at first, it simply refers to the legal process by which a non-citizen acquires citizenship. The process involves filling out an application, and once approved, making a promise to obey and uphold the country’s laws. Additionally there’s a threshold for the minimum legal residency, and you need to have good knowledge of the national dominant language and culture.

This article  discusses the differences and similarities between naturalization and citizenship to help clear up any confusion you may have.

The Major Difference Between Naturalization and Citizenship

While both naturalization and citizenship certificates prove that you’re a United States citizen, they differ in several ways. 

  • A citizenship certificate is granted to someone who inherits citizenship from their parents.  So, what this means is children who were born abroad or adopted by at least one parent who is a US citizen.
  • A naturalization certificate is granted to someone who has been a continuous resident of the United States for at least 5 years, and later becomes a citizen.

The process of acquiring a naturalization certificate is governed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The Naturalization Process

The naturalization process begins by filling out paperwork, including filling out the N-400 form. In addition to filling out paperwork, applicants must have a valid green card and meet other baseline requirements including English proficiency, continuous residency, and length of residence.

As part of the naturalization process, all applicants are also required to participate in an in-person interview, pass an English test, and take civic tests. From there, it becomes a waiting game.  Once approved, an applicant must take an oath of allegiance before receiving a certificate of naturalization. 


Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation about the naturalization process, as well as whether naturalized citizens have the same rights as any other citizens. Naturalized citizens have just as many rights as any other citizens. So, for example, both regular citizens and naturalized citizens have the right to vote and apply for a US passport. 

Other benefits of naturalization include:

  • Obtaining citizenship for your children if they are born abroad
  • Running for public office
  • Petitioning to bring your family members to the US
  • The ability to apply for grants, federal jobs, and government benefits
  • Eligibility to vote
  • A reduced risk of deportation
  • The ability to easily travel in and out of the United States

Your Trusted Immigration Law Office 

The immigration process can be confusing, vague and difficult to understand.  But you don’t have to do it alone. For assistance with the naturalization process, get in touch with the team at our Pasadena law office today. The team at the Law Office of Malathi Benjamin has over 32 years of experience helping people just like you!

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