REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT ADVISORY COUNCIL
INFORMATION - HOW DO I BECOME A U.S. CITIZEN
The following is from a brochure prepared by the
Immigration and Refugee Services Program of Catholic Charities Archdiocese
of New Orleans:
How Do I Become A U.S. Citizen?
Getting information is an important first
step. Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a U.S. citizen.
Where Can I Get a Citizenship Application?
The citizenship application (Form N-400) is
available at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) office at
701 Loyola Avenue in New Orleans as well as at community agencies, including
Catholic Charities and the Hispanic Apostolate of the Archdiocese of New
When Can I Apply?
You can apply for U.S. citizenship after you
have lived in the U.S. for five years as a permanent resident or after
three years if you are married to a U.S. citizen. Count five or three years
from the date you became a permanent resident. In fact, you can apply for
citizenship three months before you reach that date. Look on the back of
your "green card" to find the date.
Who Can Become A Citizen?
You can become a U.S. citizen if you meet
What Does "Good Moral Character"
You are a permanent resident.
You have been a legal permanent resident for five
years or three years if you are married to a U.S. citizen.
You have lived in the U.S. for at least 2 1/2
years (50%) of the five-year period or 1 1/2 years (50%) of the three-year
period if you are married to a U.S. citizen.
You have lived for more than three months in the
INS District in which you will submit an application.
You are 18 years old or older.
You have good moral character.
Good moral character means:
You did not lie to the INS when you got your
Do I Have To Know How To Speak and Write English?
You intend to be a good citizen, pay taxes and
have registered (or intend to register) for the military if you are a male
between your 18th and 26th birthdays.
You have not committed certain crimes. If you
have been arrested or convicted of a crime or have a pending criminal case
talk to a lawyer or a community agency before filling out your citizenship
You are not involved in illegal activity such
as drug use and trafficking, prostitution or gambling.
You are not a current member of the Communist
party or Nazi party.
If any of the above apply to you, get legal counsel
before filling out your application.
Yes, (unless you meet certain age and residency
exemptions or you are physically unable to do so and are granted a waiver
by the INS) your spoken and written English will be tested. You will also
need to pass a basic test on U.S. history and government. However, if you
are more than 50 years old and have been a permanent resident for 20 years
OR you are more than 55 years old and have been a permanent resident for
15 years, you may take the test on U.S. history and government in your
What Do I Need To Fill Out The Citizenship
If you are at least 65 years old and have been
a permanent resident for 20 years, you may be permitted to take a simplified
test on U.S. government and history in your own language.
You may choose to be tested at your INS interview
or before your interview at an approved English and citizenship test site.
Call Catholic Charities at 523-3755, ext. 2608 for information on how to
register for the English and Citizenship test in the New Orleans area.
You need the following information to fill
out your citizenship application (Form N-400). In most cases you will not
need an original copy of the document. Here's a checklist to help you prepare:
Do I Need A Lawyer To Fill Out The Application?
Social Security Number
Dates of any trips taken outside of the U.S. since
becoming a permanent resident, including trips to Canada.
Home address for the last five years.
List of employers for the last five years. Include
the name of the company, addresses, dates of employment, and your job positions.
Information about your spouse (even if not a legal
resident): Name, address, birth date, date and place of marriage, and social
security number (if applicable). If he/she is a naturalized citizen, you
will need the place and date of naturalization. You must give this information,
even if your spouse or children are not legal residents, or you may have
problems in the future.
If you have been married before or if your present
spouse has been married before, you will need the following information:
Name of prior spouse, date of marriage, date marriage ended, how marriage
ended, and immigration status of prior spouse.
Children's information (including those from previous
marriages even if they are not legal residents): Name, date of birth, place
of birth, and residency number.
Police records: If you were arrested for any reason,
including drunk driving, you need the dates of arrest, charges, and court
ruling of each offense.
It is strongly recommended that if any of these
charges resulted in a conviction, you should talk to someone with experience
in immigration law.
Selective Service Number: This applies to males
If you have not registered and you are between
18 and 26 years old, you need to go to a U.S. post office or local library
If you were born after 1960 and lived in the U.S.
between the ages of 18 and 26 years old and did not register, you need
to get an "information letter" excusing you.
If you have registered but do not know your number
or need an "information letter", call (708)688-6888.
When you fill out your application with the INS
office, you should also include:
$95.00 personal check or money order to cover
the costs of processing your application
After you turn in your application, you will receive
a letter notifying you of your interview date. This letter will tell you
if you need to bring any other documents to your interview. You will, of
course, need to bring your "green card" to the INS interview.
One fingerprint chart
Two identical passport sized photos (2" X
A photo copy of both sides of your "green
If you haven't already passed a standardized citizenship
test or the amnesty 312 test, the examiner will ask you questions about
U.S. history and government and give you a short dictation - a spoken sentence
which you must write down. If you do not pass the test, you will be sent
a notice with a new date to retake the test. You can take the test two
times and in some cases three.
At the interview you will also be asked questions
about your application and whether or not you have taken the English and
No you do not need a lawyer to fill out this
form unless your case is complicated. Complicated cases may, for example,
involve arrests and/or convictions for crimes, questions about moral character,
or questions about travel abroad. Many community organizations, churches
and legal assistance organizations offer help filling out routine citizenship
applications for little or no cost. In the New Orleans area Catholic Charities
Archdiocese of New Orleans (523-3755, ext. 2608) and the Hispanic Apostolate
(486-1983) offer low-cost help to low income individuals who need assistance
completing the N-400.
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