Foreigners may be eligible to become naturalized citizens of the U.S. once they have lived in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident for at least five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen). In order to take the citizenship oath in Nevada, they have to have lived in-state for at least three months. Naturalized citizens have all the same rights and privileges as U.S.-born citizens.
Below our Las Vegas Nevada naturalization and citizenship lawyers answer frequently-asked questions about the process and benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen in Nevada.
- 1. Am I eligible for naturalization?
- 2. How long do I have to live in the U.S. before I can get naturalized?
- 3. How long do I have to live in Nevada to get naturalized in Nevada?
- 4. What is the application process of becoming a U.S. citizen?
- 5. What is the timeframe for becoming a United States citizen?
- 6. What is the fee for applying for U.S. citizenship?
- 7. What happens after my naturalization application is approved?
- 8. What are the benefits of U.S. citizenship?
- 9. Will a criminal record prevent me from naturalizing?
For maintaining citizenship in the U.S. as well as a foreign country, see our article on dual citizenship.
1. Am I eligible for naturalization?
The process through which a foreign citizen gains citizenship in the U.S. is known as naturalization. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) spells out the necessary requirements for naturalization. In general, foreigners who fit any of the following categories may be eligible to become U.S. citizens:
- Birth: Foreign-born children of U.S. citizens by birth or naturalization (learn about U.S. citizenship through parents);
- Green Cards: Individuals who have lawful permanent residence (LPR) for a specified period of time (usually three to five years)
- Marriage: Individuals requesting naturalization because of their marriage to a U.S. citizen;
- Military Service: Individuals who are members of the U.S. armed forces and their families; or
- Employment: Individuals who are employed with certain entities.
The majority of aspiring American citizens first come into the U.S. on an immigrant visa, which allows them to enter and reside in America for a certain period of time. Depending on the visa requirements, after a specified time frame the visa-holder may apply for a green card to become a legal permanent resident. Once he/she has lived in the U.S. for a certain period of time, they may be eligible for naturalization.
2. How long do I have to live in the U.S. before I can get naturalized?
Legal permanent residents may be eligible to become naturalized once they have lived in the U.S. as an LPR for five (5) years, or else three (3) years if they are married to a U.S. citizen.
3. How long do I have to live in Nevada to get naturalized in Nevada?
People eligible to become citizens of the United States may take the oath of citizenship in Nevada if they have been living in Nevada for at least three (3) months.
4. What is the application process for becoming a U.S. citizen?
A legal permanent resident applying to become a citizen must complete and submit the N-400 Form with the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). As part of the application process, the individual will be required to do the following:
- attend interviews, where USCIS personnel confirm that the information provided on the individual’s N-400 is true and complete; and
- complete a naturalization exam, which includes English language writing, reading, and speaking portions, along with a civics test (learn more about the citizenship test); and
- give fingerprints.
In Nevada, the applicant may be able to get fingerprinted at the Las Vegas immigration office or Reno immigration office.
5. What is the time frame for applying for United States citizenship?
It takes an average of six months to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
6. What is the fee for applying for U.S. Citizenship?
$640 plus an $85 biometrics (fingerprinting) fee (applicants 75 years old or older are exempt from the biometrics fee). Note that military applicants filing under INA sections 328 or 329 pay no fee.
Fees paid by money order, personal check, or cashier’s check must be made payable to the Department of Homeland Security.
7. What happens after my naturalization application is approved?
If an individual has received notification that his/her application for naturalization has been approved by USCIS, the next step is usually to take the U.S. naturalization oath at a naturalization ceremony. Once this oath has been completed, the new citizen has completed the naturalization process.
When attending the ceremony, the individual can expect to do the following:
- Receive notice to take the Oath of Allegiance;
- Check in at the ceremony;
- Return his/her permanent resident card (green card);
- Take the Oath of Allegiance;
- Receive a Certificate of Naturalization (a.k.a. Certificate of Citizenship);
- Apply for a U.S. Passport;
- Register to vote; and
- Update his/her social security information.
The individual will likely attend one of two types of naturalization ceremonies: a judicial ceremony or an administrative ceremony. In the former, the court administers the Oath of Allegiance; in the latter, USCIS personnel administers the oath.
8. What are the benefits of U.S. citizenship?
Ten of the primary benefits of holding U.S. citizenship include the right to do any or all of the following:
- Run for public office
- Work at a federal job
- Receive government benefits
- Be eligible for various grants and scholarships
- Pass one’s citizenship on to the citizen’s children
- Have a U.S. passport
- Be immune to deportation
- Bring eligible family members of the citizen to the U.S.
- Travel in and out of the U.S. without limitation
9. Will a criminal record prevent me from naturalizing?
It depends. Some offenses permanently prevent a foreigner from becoming a citizen. These include the Nevada crime of murder as well as aggravated felonies (committed after November 29, 1990), some of which are:
- Nevada crime of rape,
- Nevada crime of drug trafficking,
- Nevada crime of racketeering,
- Nevada crime of lewdness with a minor,
- Nevada crime of child pornography,
- Nevada crime of fraud (involving $10,000 or more)
- Nevada crime of burglary that resulted in a prison term of one year or more,
- Nevada crime of theft that resulted in a prison term of one year or more,
- Nevada crime of resisting arrest, and
- any crime of violence
Several offenses only temporarily bar citizenship, usually for an extra three to five years. Examples of these offenses include:
- Nevada crime of prostitution,
- Nevada drug crimes (unless it is a single offense involving 30 grams or less of marijuana),
- Nevada crime of fraud (involving less than $10,000),
- two or more Nevada gambling crimes,
- spending 180 days or more in jail or prison (no matter the crime), and
- two or more convictions, which result in a prison sentence totaling five years or more
Note that even a minor offense can temporarily or permanently bar a non-citizen from attaining citizenship if the USCIS determines that the non-citizen lacks good moral character. Also note that a green card holder may face deportation from the U.S. if the USCIS learns that the foreigner committed these crimes (even if the foreigner got the records sealed).
Call a Nevada immigration attorney…
Working with our Las Vegas Nevada naturalization and citizenship lawyers will ensure that you complete all that is required of you in order to be granted naturalization. It is in your best interest to work with an attorney who is knowledgeable in the law and will provide you with the proper representation. Call our Las Vegas immigration law attorneys for a consultation.