Citizenship

Citizenship clinic Mar2016Your life is in the U.S. Why not make the most of it? Find out today if you’re eligible to become a U.S. citizen!

Becoming a U.S. citizen brings important advantages, including the ability to confer citizenship on minor children and sponsor family members for immigration, unrestricted travel abroad, and the ability to vote and fully participate in civic life, among others.

More than half the foreign-born residents of Massachusetts are U.S. citizens, and many more are eligible for naturalization. Working with local and national partners, the MIRA Coalition makes the citizenship process more accessible to immigrants across the Commonwealth through our citizenship clinics – group processing sessions that offer free legal assistance for eligible legal permanent residents who want to become citizens.

We have also compiled a list of agencies all across Massachusetts that provide citizenship assistance, English and civics classes, and other valuable services.

You can start with an overview of the citizenship process.

Frequently asked questions about citizenship

New American with certificate
A newly sworn-in U.S. citizen poses with his certificate outside Faneuil Hall in Boston.

Why should I apply to become a U.S citizen?

U.S. citizens enjoy many rights and privileges, including the right to vote, stay in the U.S., apply for federal jobs, obtain government benefits, and run for office. Citizens can also travel with a U.S. passport, petition to bring family members to the U.S., and obtain citizenship for their children. In addition, citizens are eligible for federal grants and scholarships and may be called to serve on a jury.

What are the processing times for the application for citizenship?

5.5 to 13.5 months for the Boston field office. For the Lawrence office, about 6.5 to 14 months.

How many years do you have to wait before applying for citizenship?

5 years, or 3 years if you have been married to a U.S. citizen. You may submit your application up to three months before you are eligible for citizenship.

What do you have to do to become a U.S. citizen?

You have to fill out a detailed application form (20 pages, available 11 languages), and submit it together with the required documents (see next question). Once the application is submitted, you will receive an appointment for your background check, which will be conducted by running your fingerprints through an national criminal database. The final step is an interview where you will be asked about the information you included in your application and be tested on your English skills and knowledge of U.S. history and civics.

What information and documents do I need to complete the citizenship application form?

You will need a list of your addresses for the last five years with the dates you lived there, a list of your employers for the last five years with dates you worked there, and a list of dates and places you have been outside of the U.S. for the last five years. You will also need your green card, passport(s), Social Security card, and, if any, marriage and/or divorce dates and your children’s information (names, dates of birth, addresses, and A #s). You may qualify for a fee waiver if you receive a state/federal benefit or have low income, so bring a copy of your most recent tax return, your MassHealth card, or a letter in English from the benefit provider for services such as SNAP, SSI or TANF.

Can I still apply for citizenship if I don’t speak English?

Most people will be required to speak, write, and read basic English, but many local organizations offer classes to help you prepare. You will need to be able to answer questions about your application, the civics questions, and read and write several sentences in English for your interview.

Older applicants who’ve been in the country for many years may be exempted from the English requirement and bring an interpreter to the interview: if you are at least 50 and have had your green card for at least 20 years; or if you are at least 55 and have had your green card for at least 15 years. If you are 65 or older and have had your green card for at least 20 years, you’re not only exempt from the English requirement, but you can also take a simplified version of the civics test (see below). 

How much does it cost to fill out an application with MIRA?

Our services are free, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) charges $725 to submit the application. There are full waivers available to those who receive public benefits such MassHealth, food stamps, or Section 8 housing subsidies. (Please note that these policies may soon be changed.) Even if you do not receive public benefits, you may qualify for a waiver on the basis of your income and family size, so do check with us!

We encourage those eligible to apply, to do so as soon as they can, as the fee to submit the application is expected to increase in the coming months.

What happens after my citizenship application is submitted?

You will start receiving letters from USCIS with appointments. The first one would be your biometrics, when they take your fingerprints for an FBI background check. This appointment usually happens a few weeks to a month after the application is submitted. After a few months you would receive a notice for your interview, when you will asked questions about yourself (including information you may have provided in your application) and be tested on your English skills and knowledge of U.S. history and civics. Once you pass the test, a few weeks later, you will be sent a notice for your oath ceremony, when you will take an oath of allegiance to the United States and receive your naturalization certificate showing you are now a U.S. citizen.

What is the English and U.S. history/civics test?

For the English portion, you will be given three tries to read and write a sentence in English; you need to get one correct in order to pass. For the civics and history part, there is a pool of 100 questions from which you’ll be asked 10; if you answer 6 correctly, you pass. If you are 65 or older, you can take a simpler test, with 10 questions drawn from a pool of 20 (you still must answer 6 correctly to pass). If you do not pass the interview the first time, you will be given a second interview date to try again, usually within 90 days. The timeline may vary depending on your case and how busy you are.

How can I study for my interview?

USCIS has great resources online to help you study for the civics and English test. There is a USCIS app that helps you practice the civics questions, with virtual flashcards and list of civics questions – this is also available in different languages. In addition, many organizations offer free or reduced-cost resources and classes (cost might depend on your income and where you live). If you contact us, we can provide you a list of these organizations.

My green card has expired or been lost. Can I still apply for citizenship?

Please note that your lawful permanent residence status does NOT expire with the card. The card is only proof of your status. We can help you apply for a new green card and for citizenship at the same time.

I just naturalized. My child is under 18 years old and living with me. Can I just apply for a U.S. passport instead of filling out an application for citizenship?

A: Your child is already a U.S. citizen, but to be officially recognized as such, (s)he still needs to complete another application – form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship. To get the citizenship certificate, you will need to submit proof that (s)he lives with you, as well as your own naturalization certificate and other documents. 

If you choose to get a passport for your child as proof of citizenship, the passport agency still requires proof that your child derived citizenship from you. However, you can apply for a passport before filing the N-600. It’s recommended to apply for the certificate and the passport once you become a citizen. 

What if I make a mistake on my application? I’ve heard that the government is trying to revoke some people’s citizenship.

This is a rare occurrence and only happens in extreme circumstances. When it has happened, it is because USCIS looked back on the file and realized that the person provided false documents or had committed a crime prior to the time of naturalization that made them deportable. USCIS would not revoke your citizenship if you just made a mistake, like forget a specific date or forget to mention a job you had.

Can I still keep my original citizenship as well?

Although the United States does not officially recognize dual citizenship, it also does not have any laws against it. However, your home country/ other country of citizenship may have laws against dual citizenship. As part of the U.S. citizenship oath, you formally renounce your allegiance to any other country.

How soon after I get my citizenship can I register to vote?

You can register to vote immediately preceding your oath ceremony. MIRA actually sends volunteers to register New Americans as they exit their ceremonies.

Can I leave the country while my application is pending? 

There is no rule against leaving the country while your application is pending, but there will be appointments you will have to attend. It is best to consult with us or with an immigration attorney for legal advice, especially if the trip is more than a few days.

What if I’ve had trouble with the law and have a criminal record?

It is important to consult with an immigration attorney or a U.S. Department of Justice representative with specific cases. Having a criminal background doesn’t necessarily preclude you from applying for citizenship. We can help you figure out if you bring us your court documents.

Does receiving public benefits (e.g. MassHealth, food stamps) affect my ability to apply for citizenship?

The proposed public charge change would not affect legal permanent residents applying for citizenship. This is a proposed regulation that would affect people applying for a green card,  but it is proposed meaning it is still being decided whether or not it will be implemented. No one should stop using their benefits because of this. In fact, if you have MassHealth, DTA, or another means-tested benefit, or if your income is below the poverty line, you qualify for a fee waiver. As noted above, not only are our services free, but the application for a fee waiver is free as well.

 

El proceso de naturalización

¿Está listo para hacerse ciudadano de E.E.U.U.? Aquí le explicamos el proceso.

La ciudadanía de E.E.U.U. le otorga importantes ventajas, incluyendo la posibilidad de extenderle la ciudadanía a sus hijos menores de edad y de auspiciar la inmigración de otros miembros de su familia. También puede viajar fuera del país sin restricciones, votar, y participar completamente en la vida cívica del país.

Más de la mitad de los residentes de Massachusetts que nacieron en el extranjero ya se han hecho ciudadanos, y muchos más son elegibles para la naturalización. La Coalición MIRA trabaja con socios locales y nacionales para facilitarle el proceso a los inmigrantes en todo el estado. Ofrecemos clínicas gratuitas donde ofrecemos ayuda legal, y también tenemos una lista de agencias que ofrecen servicios legales, clases de inglés y de cívica, y otros servicios para ayudarle con su naturalización.

Read more: El proceso de naturalización 

MIRA citizenship clinics

Want us to help you with your citizenship application? Learn more about our process.

Project CitizenshipIn partnership with Project Citizenship and the state Citizenship for New Americans Program, MIRA helps make the naturalization process more accessible through free clinics at our Boston offices and, periodically, across the state.

We’ll guide you through the naturalization form, step by step, including a waiver for the federal fees if you qualify. When you attend a clinic, you will join 20–40 other individuals who are also applying for citizenship. Our Citizenship Team works together with a group of trained volunteers to go through the N-400 Application for Naturalization with you one-on-one.

At a clinic you will go through four stations:
      1) Check-in and registration
      2) Screening for eligibility
      3) Completing the application
      4) Quality control.

The whole process takes between two and three hours. We will keep a copy of your documents in our office, and receive U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) notices about your citizenship appointments.

If you have any additional questions, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

We look forward to assisting you!

Read more: MIRA citizenship clinics

Citizenship service providers

Are you ready to become a U.S. citizen? The agencies below provide citizenship classes and other services to help qualified applicants. Click here to learn more about the process.

Greater Boston

Organization

Services/activities

Action for Boston Community Development
178 Tremont Street
Boston MA 02111

617-445-6000

ESOL classes
Assistance with citizenship and naturalization applications, green card and other renewals, fee waivers, and citizenship workshops

Agencia ALPHA
(CLJ Social Transformation Center)
62 Northampton St., Boston, MA 02118

617-522-6382

Beginner and intermediate citizenship classes
Citizenship application assistance includes N-00, N-600, N-648 disability and I-912 fee waiver; interview and test preparation, and support services at two sites: Boston and East Boston

Asian American Civic Association
87 Tyler Street
Boston, MA 02111

617-445-6000

ESOL classes
Assistance with naturalization application, counseling on Initial entry into the U.S. Immigrant visa processing, change of status from immigrant or refugee to permanent resident, application procedure for citizenship

Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center
885 Washington St.
Boston, MA 02111

617-635-5129

ESOL classes
Assistance filling out citizenship applications

Cape Verdean Community UNIDO
492 Dudley St.
Roxbury, MA 02199

617-442-6644

Weekly orientation and ESOL classes
Citizenship classes
Workshops and voter registration efforts
Creole classes

East Boston Ecumenical Community Council (EBECC)
50 Meridian St., Suite. B-1
East Boston, MA 02128

617-567-2750

ESOL/civics classes with pre- and post-test
Citizenship application assistance including N-648,N-400, fee waiver, interview and test preparation, as well as support services

Haitian American Public Health Initiatives (HAPHI)
1603 Blue Hill Ave. PO Box 260386
Mattapan, MA 02126

617-298-8076

Beginner-level ESOL/civics classes
Citizenship application assistance includes N-648, N-400, fee waiver, interview and test preparation
Referral to legal services

Irish International Immigrant Center
100 Franklin St., LL-1
Boston, MA 02110

617-542-7654

Beginner and intermediate ESOL/civics classes
Free Consultation with Immigration Lawyer
Help with family-based permanent residence
Family reunification through visa petitions and consular processing
Green card applications for asylees and refugees
Petitions for asylee and refugee relatives
Naturalization Temporary Protected Status applications
Renewal of permanent residence cards
Violence Against Women Act petitions
Provisional waivers
Citizenship application assistance includes N-648, N-400, fee waiver, interview and test preparation and support services

International Institute of New England
1 Milk St.
Boston, MA 02109

617-695-9990

Citizenship exam preparation and naturalization application help

Sites in Boston, Lowell, Lynn

Jewish Vocational Services
29 Winter St., Suite 500
Boston, MA 02108

617-399-3223

ESOL
Green Card Renewal
EAD application
Preparation for the Citizenship Interview and Test
N-400 application assistance
N-600 application assistance

Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS)
1046 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02139

617-825-5897

ESOL/civics classes
Citizenship application assistance includes N-648, N-400, fee waiver, interview and test preparation

Sites in Cambridge, Dorchester, Somerville, Brighton, Framingham, Lowell

Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition
105 Chauncy St., #901
Boston, MA 02111

617-350-5480

Technical Assistance to CNAP providers
Citizenship application assistance includes N-648, N-400, fee waiver

Project Citizenship
4 Faneuil South Market Building
3rd Floor, Suite 4025
Boston, MA 02109

617-694-5949

Provide free, high quality services to legal permanent residents to help them become U.S citizens
Free workshops, eligibility screening, application assistance, legal referrals and all materials needed to apply for U.S. citizenship

Somali Development Center
203-205 Green St
Jamaica Plain 02130

617-522-0700

ESOL classes
Citizenship application assistance includes N-648, N-400, N-600, fee waiver, interview and test preparation and other vital support services

Vietnamese-American Civic Association, Inc.
1452 Dorchester Avenue
Dorchester, MA 02122

617-288-7344

Immigration services: Renewal of permanent resident status, removal of conditional green card, petition for family member, citizenship application

Read more: Citizenship service providers