December 3, 2023

Immigration Green Card

Immigration Is Good For You

Resources in Charlotte to help you with US citizenship

5 min read

Irene Landu, holding daughter Julia Nsiamfumu. Landu’s husband, Jully Nsiamfumu, holds their daughter Hope Nsiamfumu. Landu received her citizenship on Feb. 25, 2020, at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Charlotte.

Irene Landu, holding daughter Julia Nsiamfumu. Landu’s husband, Jully Nsiamfumu, holds their daughter Hope Nsiamfumu. Landu received her citizenship on Feb. 25, 2020, at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Charlotte.

Jully Nsiamfumu

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. become citizens through a process called naturalization.

There are several steps involved in the process, and it can take more than a year to complete, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Here’s how to find out if you’re eligible for citizenship, steps you can take, and resources in Charlotte to help you prepare.

How to be eligible for U.S. citizenship

According to USCIS, you are eligible to become a U.S. citizen if you:

  • Are at least 18 years old.

  • Have been a permanent resident for the past three or five years, depending on which naturalization category you apply under.

  • Have continuous residence and physical presence in the U.S.

  • Be able to read, write and speak basic English.

  • Demonstrate good moral character.

  • Have knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government.

  • Are willing to take the Oath of Allegiance.

What steps can you take to become a U.S. citizen?

If you’re not a citizen by birth or did not acquire citizenship from your parents automatically after birth, USCIS lists these steps you can take to start the naturalization process:

  1. Review the naturalization eligibility worksheet to decide if you are eligible to apply for naturalization.

  2. Complete form Form N-400 and collect the necessary documents needed to show your eligibility for naturalization. Submit the form and pay fees associated with processing. You can check case processing times and your case status online.

  3. If you need a biometrics screening, USCIS will send you an appointment notice. From there, you are asked to arrive at the designated location to have the screening completed.

  4. Once your case is complete, USCIS will schedule a mandatory interview with you to complete the naturalization process. USCIS will later notify applicants of their status following completion.

  5. Take the Oath of Allegiance to officially complete the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.

How much does U.S. citizenship cost?

The filing fee to start the process is $640, along with an $85 biometric screening fee. But there are some exceptions:

  • You may not have to pay any fees if you are low-income.

  • If you are 75 or older, you only pay for the filing fee, not for biometrics.

  • Military applicants filing under section 328 or 329 of the INA will not have to pay any fees.

Fees can be paid online, or by personal check, cashier’s check or money order. If you pay by check, you must make the heck payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The USCIS has a calculator to help determine the total cost of your case.

Where can legal help be found in Charlotte?

Hiring a lawyer to help you navigate through the naturalization process is a good idea, but it can be expensive. If you do hire an attorney, the Department of Justice recommends checking their disciplinary record.

Attorneys are required to submit Form G-28 and your Form N-400 application to represent you. If you’re looking for free or low-cost legal help in Charlotte, you can reach out to these organizations:

  • Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency: The Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency offers legal representation for refugee clients. Staff member Weh Ksor is the main contact. She can be reached at 704-535-8803, or at [email protected].

  • Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy: The Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy provides legal assistance to those looking to stabilize their immigration status. They can be contacted at 704-376-1600.

  • International House: The Ginter Immigration Law Clinic at International House helps immigrants and refugees navigate the legal process to secure a green card, and with the naturalization process. You can contact them at 704-333-8099 or at [email protected].

  • Latin American Coalition: The Latin American Coalition offers legal assistance to all those who have a pending process with immigration, or wish to start a new process through their representatives accredited by the Department of Justice. They can be reached at 704-531-3848 or at [email protected].

  • Muslim American Society: The Muslim American Society Immigrant Justice Center helps legal permanent residents become U.S. citizens through naturalization, and offers assistance with visa applications. The center can be reached at 919-827-5049 or at [email protected].

What about ESL classes in Charlotte?

Passing an English test is a requirement to become a citizen, but if you are older than 50 or have a medical disability, you may qualify for an exception.

Here are a few places in Charlotte that offer free or low-cost English classes:

  • Central Piedmont Community College: To enroll in free English courses at CPCC, you must be at least 16 years old, withdrawn from your public, private or home school if you are under the age of 18 and not be in the U.S.on an F-1 or J-1 visa.

  • The Edge Institute: The Edge Institute is offering ESL workshops in Charlotte on Aug. 19-20 for $50. To learn more, call 704-598-6200 or email [email protected].

  • International House: International House provides free, in-person English instruction on reading and speaking skills. You can register for their May classes through a Google form found here.

Where can I find civics classes in Charlotte?

Unless you have a medical disability exception, you are required to pass the civics test. If you didn’t take the English test, you are allowed to take the civics test in your native language if you bring an interpreter. If you are at least 65 years old and have lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for 20 years, you can get a simplified version of the test.

To pass the civics test, a participant needs to study 128 questions about American government and history. You must answer 12 of the 20 questions correctly to pass.

Here are resources in Charlotte to help people prepare for the test:

  • International House: The citizenship preparation program at International House helps students develop vocabulary and practice topics that will be on the civics test. The 10-week course is $80, and you can register for it here.
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library: The library offers weekly study sessions for the citizenship test over Zoom. You can register for the next session at
  • Free study guides from Gaston Library and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College are available online.

This story was originally published March 23, 2022 3:54 PM.

Evan Moore is a service journalism reporter for the Charlotte Observer. He grew up in Denver, North Carolina, where he previously worked as a reporter for the Denver Citizen, and is a UNC Charlotte graduate.


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