An increasing number of green card holders have reached out to immigration lawyers like Ally Bolour, recently, and he says President Trump's travel ban (now struck down by the courts) left them disturbed.
Foreigners can become legal permanent residents once they are thoroughly vetted by the U.S. government, and the green card they are issued gives them special benefits like freely crossing the border.
But when the ban was issued, some of those people were temporarily stopped from entering the U.S.
So Bolour got calls from green card holders who say they might want to get their U.S. citizenship to guarantee they can never be turned away.
Here's a simplified step-by-step guide of what it takes.
How long does the process typically last?
Around 3 to 4 months for people who are in L.A., according to Bolour.
Who is eligible?
Legal permanent residents to the U.S. over 18 years old.
You must have lived here for at least five years, too, unless you are married to a U.S. citizen. Then you only need to have been here for three years.
Check this eligibility worksheet, too, to make sure no part of you aren't disqualified in any way.
What forms do I need to complete?
A lot of them.
You will also need several documents, too, depending on your situation.
How much does it cost?
Filing the application, alone, comes at a price of $725.
But you can avoid part of that fee if you are older than 75 or served in the U.S. military.
What's the advantage in hiring a lawyer for this process, as opposed to doing it on my own?
A lawyer will cost more in addition to the fee, but it may buy you some peace of mind.
"It's always better to have counsel if there are potential issues," says Bolour. "If you file and think there are no problems, then you will be in the system. But perhaps the harm will outweigh investing in an attorney if issues come up that you hadn’t noticed."
What steps do I have to take once I send in the application?
First, there is a biometrics scan.
"It's not a test. Just fingerprints," says Bolour.
Then there is an in-person interview. You will be asked about things like your background, where you've lived in the U.S. and more.
"They also will make sure there are no criminal issues and no IRS issues," he adds.
This is the step where you will have to take a written test of 10 randomized questions on U.S. history and civics, too. The test is in English (unless you get a language exemption).
These steps are, in part, to make sure you are proficient in English.
There are exceptions, though.
For example, if you are 50 or older and have legally lived in the U.S. for at least 20 years, you can take the civics test in the language of your choice.
Once I've completely all these steps, how long does it typically take to hear the government's final decision?
About two weeks.
Where can I get more information?
Immigration lawyers can be a great resource.
But also make sure to review the information provided online by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.