Time is running out to complete the naturalization process in the United States in time to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election. Applying for naturalization, the process of becoming a US Citizen, is a time consuming process that generally involves four main steps:
- Submitting the form N-400, Application for Naturalization
- Attending a biometrics appointment to take fingerprints and a picture
- Passing an interview and exam at a local USCIS Office
- Attending a citizenship ceremony.
The reason this process is slow is almost entirely due to government delays in processing paperwork. The actual delay depends on the field office that is processing the application, as each office has different workloads, staff levels, and local practices. Statistics are available in general from USCIS’s website for case processing times. To use that tool, choose the form number N-400 and then the local field office with jurisdiction over the area where you reside. However, these statistics are more like averages and tend to overestimate the processing time for a simple case.
That being said, some cases take longer. Some people have to undergo longer background checks and security clearances. Some people are interviewed twice, for example if they don’t pass their first interview. And finally, there may be a delay before the citizenship ceremony is scheduled, sometimes several months. That last step is key, because the process is not complete and the person is not officially a citizen until they have received their certificate at a ceremony.
A final consideration is that every potential voter must first become a citizen and then register to vote. Each state has laws on when and how voters must register. Those deadlines can be reviewed at websites like vote.org. Some new citizens may not be aware of this requirement and will be disappointed if they aren’t able to vote after all.
Is it already too late to naturalize in order to vote in the 2020 election? Not necessarily, but it may be for some people. Those interested in voting should make an effort to file as soon as possible.