Being able to live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave” has its perks, but there’s so much you miss out on if you don’t have U.S. citizenship. U.S. citizenship isn’t just a piece of paper. It’s a gateway to rights and privileges you wouldn’t otherwise have.
Rights that are only given to U.S. citizens include:
- Right to vote
- Right to bring family members to the U.S.
- Right to obtain citizenship for children born abroad
- Right to travel with a U.S. passport
- Right to eligibility for Federal jobs
- Right to become an elected official
To become a United States citizen and gain those rights, all non-citizens must go through a process regulated by the U.S. Federal government. Find out about the steps and what it costs to become a U.S. citizen, so you can live your own version of the American dream.
Filing for a Green Card: $5,000 to $7,000
If you aren’t a legal permanent resident in the U.S., you will have to file for a green card first before submitting a naturalization application. A green card, including a family-based green card — which means you are a family member of a U.S. citizen — can take up to 14 months after filing to receive.
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Filing an Application for Naturalization: $640
Once you have your green card, you will need to file an Application for Naturalization, Form N-400, which, upon approval, will grant you eligibility for U.S. Citizenship. You can file the form online or mail it. Fees do not apply for military applicants who file under section 328 or 329 of the INA.
Fingerprinting Fee: $85.00
When you file your application for naturalization, you’ll add a biometrics fee, which will cover the cost of fingerprinting. Applicants who are 75 or older are exempt from the additional $85 fingerprinting fee.
After you file your application, you’ll receive an appointment notice with a date, time and location to be fingerprinted.
Travel to Be Fingerprinted: Cost Will Vary
After you receive your appointment notice, you will have to travel to an Application Support Center, or an ASC, to be fingerprinted. ASC locations are in or near major cities throughout the states. Chances are there will be a center that will allow you to drive there and return home within one day.
The actual travel cost will depend on fuel prices in your area, the type of fuel mileage your vehicle gets and any other expenses, such as food, that you incur during the trip.
Passport-Style Photos: $14.99
The submission of two passport-style photos are required for applicants who live outside of the United States. According to the U.S. Department of State, passport photos must be a headshot with your full face in view. No hats, glasses, headphones or other hands-free wireless devices are allowed. A neutral facial expression or natural smile is required. The photo should be 2 x 2, and your head must be between 1 and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of your chin to the top of your head.
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Attorney Fees: $1,500 to $2,000
Applying for citizenship is a lengthy and time-consuming process that requires you to complete and submit documentation and supporting evidence. Although you can apply for U.S. citizenship on your own, you risk making a mistake on your paperwork, which can result in your application being rejected.
To save money on attorney fees, you can do most, if not all, of the preparation yourself. You can then hire an attorney to verify that everything is in order before you submit your application.
Document Preparation and Translation Fees: $100 to $400
You might need to hire someone to help you prepare the documents required. Plus, all evidence that supports your application must be submitted in its original language. In that case, a complete English translation might be in order, which means that you will need to hire a professional.
Translators must submit a certification that indicates the translation is both complete and accurate. The certification must also show that the person is competent as a translator.
ESL Classes: Free
One of the requirements of becoming a U.S. citizen is to be able to read, write and speak basic English. You will have to take both an English test and a civics test in English unless you meet exemption requirements.
English as a Second Language classes are often free. Look for ESL classes at nearby community colleges or public libraries. You can also contact your local school district.
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US Citizenship Preparation Classes: $0 to $40 or more
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, you can find citizenship classes that will help you prepare for your civics test through community organizations or social service providers. You can search by ZIP code or address to find a resource near you. Classes can be free, or they can cost upwards of $40.
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Marriage Certificate: $15 or More
At your citizenship interview, you might need to show valid proof of marriage if you obtained your green card through marriage. You can visit the website of the National Center for Health Statistics to find out where to obtain a copy of your marriage certificate by state.
The cost of an official marriage certificate varies. For example, in California, a copy of state marriage certification is $15, whereas in Texas the cost is $20.
Travel to US Citizenship Interview: Cost Varies
Part of completing your application for naturalization includes a meeting with immigration officials for a personal citizenship interview. After application requirements are met, you will receive a notice with the time, date and location of your meeting by mail.
The interview will take place at the USCIS office that serves your region. Depending on where you are located, you might have to travel a few hours to get to the regional office.
Travel to Naturalization Ceremony: Cost Varies
Sometimes, applicants will be allowed to participate in a naturalization ceremony on the same day as their U.S. citizenship interview. If one is not available while you are at the USCIS office, you will receive a notice with the date, time and location of a scheduled ceremony.
Again, your travel costs will depend on fuel costs to the location and other costs you incur.
Apply for a US Passport: $65 to $175
The U.S. Department of State recommends that all new U.S. citizens apply for a U.S. passport. In addition to your naturalization certificate, a U.S. passport can be used as official proof of citizenship. You will receive an application for a passport at your naturalization ceremony.
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