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US Citizenship for Nigerians

The US offers numerous pathways to obtaining citizenship. If you’re a Nigerian in the US or looking to come to the US, it’s important to know what these pathways are and how you can apply to become a naturalised citizen.

IAS’ immigration lawyers work across the US and Nigeria to help our clients achieve their immigration goals. To find out about how we could help you immigrate to the US or whatever your preferred country might be, reach out to us on +44 (0) 3316300929 or +23413438882 for our Lagos Office. Alternatively, contact us online.

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    Overview of US Citizenship

    Obtaining United States citizenship is often the last step for foreign nationals to fully integrate into US society.

    Becoming a naturalised US citizen means that you will have the same rights and privileges as all other US citizens, including many benefits that US lawful permanent residents do not have access to.

    There are a few different routes to citizenship, but the most common one by far is by being a lawful permanent resident of the US (or Green Card holder) for five years and meeting all of the eligibility criteria for citizenship.

    Nigerians can also become US citizens by being married to a US citizen, being a US military service member, or by being the child of a US citizen.

    As a Nigerian, you will also be able to obtain US citizenship while still keeping your Nigerian citizenship status and Nigerian passport.

    Applications for citizenship must normally be made online through the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website or by post.

    What Are the Benefits of US Citizenship?

    Becoming a United States citizen affords you a number of benefits not usually accessible to lawful permanent residents. These include the following:

    • The ability to apply for, and carry, a US passport
    • Lawful protection from deportation
    • The ability to pass on citizenship to your children when you naturalise
    • The ability to petition for family reunification
    • The ability to apply for government jobs
    • Freedom to travel to the United States and from it without restriction, and the ability to seek help from US embassies and consulates
    • The ability to spend as much time outside the United States as you like without losing your citizenship status
    • The ability to vote

    You will also be able to take advantage of a range of other advantages, such as access to certain social and public benefits if you need them.

    What is the Eligibility Criteria for US Citizenship by Naturalisation?

    Most Nigerian nationals will have to meet the following eligibility criteria in order to become lawful, naturalised US citizens. You must:

    • Be 18 years or older
    • Be one of the following:
      • A lawful permanent resident (or Green Card holder) for at least five years
      • Married to a US citizen
      • US military service member
      • Child of a US citizen
    • Be able to write, read and speak basic English
    • Be of good moral character
    • Pass the naturalisation interview and test

    Some of these eligibility criteria are covered in more detail in the following sections.

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      Eligibility Criteria if You’re a Lawful Permanent Resident

      Many Nigerian nationals will find their pathway to US citizenship by being lawful permanent residents in the US for at least five years. This is also known as the Green Card route to citizenship.

      To be eligible for this route, most applicants will have to fulfil all of the following criteria. You must:

      • Be at least 18 years old at the time of application
      • Prove that you have been a lawfully admitted permanent resident of the United States for at least five years
      • Demonstrate continuous residence in the United States for at least five years immediately before the date you file your application
      • Show you have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the five years immediately before the date you file your application
      • Show you have lived for at least three months in a state or USCIS district having jurisdiction over your place of residence
      • Show that you are a person of good moral character and have been a person of good moral character for at least five years immediately before the date of your application
      • Demonstrate loyalty to the principles and ideals of the US Constitution
      • Be able to read, write and speak English and have knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and of the principles and form of government, of the US

      Eligibility Criteria if You’re Married to a US Citizen

      If you’re married to a US citizen, you will also be eligible for US citizenship through naturalisation. One benefit of this path is that you’ll be able to apply after only three years’ worth of lawful permanent residence in the US.

      You will also have to fulfil the following criteria. You must:

      • Be at least 18 years old at the time of application
      • Be a lawfully admitted permanent resident of the US (and have had continuous residence in the US) for at least three years immediately before the date of your application
      • Have been living with your lawful spouse during the three years immediately before the date of your application and while your application is processed
      • Have lived for at least three months in a US state or USCIS district having jurisdiction over your place of residence
      • Live in the US from the date you filed your application until the date you naturalise
      • Have been present in the US for at least 18 months out of the three years immediately before the date of your application
      • Be able to read, write and speak English and have knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and of the principles and form of government, of the United States (also known as civics)
      • Be a person of good moral character and demonstrate loyalty the US Constitution

      What is the Application Process for Naturalisation?

      There are several steps involved when applying for naturalisation.

      These involve the following:

      1. Filing your citizenship through naturalisation form, also known as Form N-400
      2. Paying your citizenship fees
      3. Attend your biometrics appointment
      4. Attend the citizenship interview and test
      5. Take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalisation ceremony and become a US citizen

      These steps are outlined in the following sections in detail.

      Going through the process of applying for US citizenship can be made easier with the presence of a US legal immigration expert to guide you through the process. IAS’ immigration lawyers can assist you through every step of the process, making sure you can obtain citizenship first time round. Call us on +44 (0) 3316300929 or +23413438882 if you’re in Nigeria, or contact us online.

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        Step 1: Filing Form N-400

        The first step in the journey to becoming a US citizen is filing Form N-400.

        You may either file Form N-400 online or by post. However, it’s strongly recommended to file it online, as you will be able to take advantage of the following benefits. You will be able to:

        • Pay your filing fee online
        • Check the status of your case in real time
        • Receive notifications and case updates
        • View date estimates for your case being completed
        • Respond to any requests for evidence
        • Manage your contact information

        If you’re applying for naturalisation as a 5-year Green Card holder or as a 3-year spouse of a US citizen, you can file Form N-400 90 days before you reach your residency requirement.

        What Are the Required Documents for Naturalisation?

        When you file Form N-400, you will have to provide a range of supporting documentation to USCIS.

        These documents will vary depending on your own situation. However, they may well include (but not be limited to) the following:

        • A copy of your Permanent Resident Card (also known as your Green Card)
        • A copy of your marriage certificate (if applicable)
        • Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service (if you are applying for naturalisation based on military service)
        • DD Form 214, NGB Form 22, or discharge orders (if applying for naturalisation based on military service and you’re separated from service)
        • A copy of your official military orders (if you are applying for naturalisation based on military service and are currently serving)
        • Evidence of your citizen spouse’s employment abroad (if applying under INA 319(b))
        • Two passport-style photographs (if you live outside the US).

        If your official documents are not in English, you must also provide an English translation along with a certification from the translator stating that the translation is complete and accurate.

        Step 2: Paying Your Citizenship Fees

        When you file Form N-400, you will also have to pay your filing fees at the same time.

        The fee for citizenship by naturalisation is $640.

        Note that you may also have to pay an additional $85 if you have to attend a biometrics appointment. If you’re 75 or older, you will not have to pay this biometrics fee.

        If you’re filing your form online, you will also be able to pay your fees online. You can do this with a credit card, debit card or bank withdrawal.

        If you’re filing your form by post, you can pay the fee using any of the following:

        • Money order
        • Personal check
        • Cashier’s check
        • Credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions

        Note that all fees are non-refundable.

        Step 3: Attending Your Biometrics Appointment

        After you file your form, you will receive a notice to attend your biometrics appointment at a local Application Support Center (ASC).

        At this interview, a USCIS officer may take the following biometric information from you:

        • A photograph of you
        • Your signature
        • Your fingerprints

        The biometrics interview should take no longer than 30 minutes.

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          Step 4: Attending the Citizenship Interview and Test

          The Citizenship Interview

          The citizenship interview is where you will meet with a USCIS officer to assess your eligibility for US citizenship in person.

          The interview will generally last around 20 minutes. You can expect to be asked questions on the following:

          • Your background
          • Your supporting evidence for citizenship
          • How accurate the information is on your Form N-400
          • Where you live and how long you’ve been living there
          • Your attachment to the constitution
          • Your willingness to take an Oath of Allegiance

          Note that your ability to speak and understand English will be tested throughout the interview process.

          You must ensure that the information on your Form N-400 is completely up to date and accurate. If there are any discrepancies between the answers you give and what’s on the form, you should be prepared to explain them to the USCIS officer.

          The English Test

          As well as assessing your ability to speak and understand English throughout your interview, the USCIS officer will also ask you to take a couple of simple tests to assess your English skills.

          These are as follows:

          • Reading: the officer will ask you to read out a sentence chosen from a list of three sentences
          • Writing: the officer will ask you to write out a sentence chosen from a list of three sentences

          The USCIS has a range of study guides and revision materials available on their website to help you study for the test portions of the interview.

          The Civics Test

          The final part of the interview will be the civics test.

          In this part of the interview, you will be asked a series of questions about the following topics:

          • The history of the US as a country
          • The US government and its political systems
          • The rights and responsibilities of US citizens
          • The geography, symbols and holidays of the US

          During the test, you will be asked 10 questions by the USCIS officer. These questions will be drawn from a list of 100 pre-determined questions.

          You must answer six or more questions in order to successfully pass the civics test.

          It is strongly recommended that you study thoroughly for the test and have a strong understanding of the questions you’ll be asked and what answers you’ll have to give.

          Exemptions to the Test

          There are some exemptions in place that mean you may not have to meet the English language requirements for the citizenship interview.

          For instance, you will be exempt from the English language requirement if you are either:

          • 50 years or older at the time of application and you’ve lived in the US as a permanent resident for at least 20 years
          • 50 years or older at the time of application and you’ve lived in the US as a permanent resident for at least 15 years

          Note, however, that even if one of these exemptions applies to you, you will still need to take the civics test.

          However, you will be able to take the civics test in your own native language. You must bring an interpreter with you to the interview who is fluent in both English and your native language.

          Individuals who have a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment may also be exempt from both the English test and civics test requirement. If this applies, then the Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions must be filled in by a licensed medical or osteopathic doctor or licensed clinical psychologist.

          Take the leap to become a US Citizen. Apply for US Citizenship by Naturalization today. Contact our expert assistance now. Contact Us

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            Step 5: Take the Oath of Allegiance at a Naturalisation Ceremony

            If USCIS has approved your form, you will be approved to attend your naturalisation ceremony and become a US citizen.

            You may be able to attend your ceremony on the same day as your interview. If this is not possible, you will receive details on when your ceremony will take place in the future.

            At your ceremony, you can expect to do the following:

            • Be checked in by a USCIS officer, who will confirm that you are eligible to take the Oath of Allegiance
            • Return your Permanent Resident Card to USCIS
            • Watch a series of videos, performances and speeches
            • Take the Oath of Allegiance
            • Recite the Pledge of Allegiance
            • Receive your Certificate of Naturalization

            After completing these steps, you will become a fully naturalised US citizen.

            How Can I Apply for a US Passport?

            When you attend your naturalisation ceremony, you will receive an application for a US passport in your US Citizenship Welcome Packet.

            This application is known as Form DS-11.

            You will have to submit Form DS-11 in person at a passport acceptance facility, along with your Certificate of Naturalization, a photocopy of your certificate and a valid passport photo that meets all of the photo requirements.

            It will cost $165 for a standard passport book with standard processing.

            You may be able to pay additional fees to have your passport application processed quicker.

            Standard passport applications are typically processed between 10-13 weeks.

            How Can IAS Help?

            Becoming a fully naturalised US citizen can be one of the most important and significant days of an individual’s life.

            However, the process of getting there can be long and complex, with many key factors to keep in mind throughout.

            If you need any extra help, assistance or support with the journey to become a US citizen, IAS can help.

            We offer complete immigration advice and services in the US and Nigeria. Regardless of your circumstances or situation, we have the tools to help you on your journey to become a naturalised US citizen.

            Whether you need assistance with the application process or citizenship interview, need help with any special or unique circumstances that might affect your application, or just unsure of how to get started with the process, we can help.

            Reach out to us and take the first step on your journey to US citizenship today. Call us on +44 (0) 3316300929 or +23413438882 if you’re in Nigeria. Or, contact us online.

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                      Frequently Asked Questions

                      The entire process of getting citizenship from the point where you first file Form N-400 usually takes around 18 to 24 months.

                      However, note that this time period may significantly vary depending on a variety of factors, including if there are any complications in your application, if you need to retake the citizenship interview, or if there are any internal delays at USCIS in processing applications.

                      You will receive an application to register to vote at your naturalisation ceremony.

                      You can fill in the application and submit it to relevant locations in your local community, which may include post offices, motor vehicle offices, county boards of election, or offices of your state Secretary of State.

                      Yes, it is possible to lose your US citizenship in certain exceptional circumstances.

                      These include the following. You can lose your US citizenship if you:

                      • Run for public office in a foreign country (under certain conditions)
                      • Enter military service in a foreign country (under certain conditions)
                      • Apply for citizenship in a foreign country with the intention of giving up US citizenship
                      • Commit an act of treason against the US
                      • Are a naturalised U.S. citizen who faces denaturalisation due to committing certain crimes, such as terrorism, war crimes, human rights violations, fraud and sexual offences

                      You may also voluntarily renounce your US citizenship if you no longer wish to be a US citizen.

                      To do this, you must appear in person before a US consular or diplomatic officer at a US Embassy or Consulate in a foreign country and sign an oath of renunciation.

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