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An overview of the naturalization process

For many immigrants in South Carolina, naturalization is the ultimate goal. Naturalization is the process by which an immigrant becomes a citizen of the United States. Although the idea sounds simple enough, the naturalization process can be really quite complex, which is why many people seek assistance.

In order to even apply for naturalization, a person usually must first obtain an immigrant visa, and then obtain the status of Lawful Permanent Resident by securing a green card. Also keep in mind that some non-immigrant visas can also pave the way to naturalization, including an intra-company transfer visa.

Once the person is ready to apply for naturalization after all the requirements have been met, he or she can mail the naturalization application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It can be mailed with Certified Mail/Return Receipt Requested so that the person knows the application has been received.

In most cases, the application fee for naturalization is $680. Applicants who are 75 or older pay only $595, and people who can't afford the filing fee can apply for a fee waiver. The fee waiver, or a USCIS form I-912, must demonstrate an "inability to pay." It is recommended that this form is submitted on top of the Application for Naturalization, or form N-400.

Typically, a cover letter is not necessary with the application. However, it is recommended that people who qualify to take the naturalization exam in a language other than English include a cover letter that states in bold letter what language they have been approved to be interviewed in.

If the application is approved, the USCIS will send a form N-445, which is a Notification of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, which states when and where the applicant will be sworn in as a United States citizen. The swearing-in ceremony is a public event and friends and family are invited.

Source: NY Daily News, "Tips on filing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Application for Naturalization," Allan Wernick, April 4, 2012.

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