British expats in the USA who want to vote in the forthcoming Presidential Elections have been urged to apply for full citizenship as soon as possible.
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Many expat green card holders live permanently in the States without taking up citizenship, but cannot take part in federal elections.
If they want to vote, they must apply for naturalisation to gain the right.
The initiative to sign up as many expats as possible to vote is backed by President Barack Obama and may be one of the last chances to become a US citizen.
Uncertainty if Trump wins
Republican candidate Donald Trump has alluded to forthcoming changes in US immigration policy if he wins office in the November election.
If he does top the poll, he will take office in January.
His speeches have included many comments about tightening up immigration rules, which leaves many British expats in an uncertain position.
Applying for naturalisation involves filing an application with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The process costs $680.
This covers the application fee and a charge for fingerprinting. Some applicants also have to undergo biometric identification, which may incur an extra fee.
The fee can be paid by credit card, but an extra form requesting authorisation for the transaction also has to be filed.
Qualifying as a US citizen
To qualify for citizenship, a British expat must have lived in the US for at least five years. Expats married to an American spouse may have a shorter qualification period.
However, the State Department says the average time expats spend as green card holders is generally seven years.
Besides the naturalisation application, expats also have to take a citizenship test.
Expats normally wait for between five months and two years to become US citizens, but the president is pushing state agencies to process as many applications as possible in time for the election.
“Most citizens are sworn in within 180 days of their application, but this can be a much shorter time in rural areas than in the big cities,” said a State Department spokesman.
“The wait depends on how many applications are in the pipeline at any one time.”
The State Department warns expats to check their applications carefully, as mistakes or missing documents can slow the application and errors can add to the application cost.
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