A person may become a U.S. citizen (1) by birth or (2) through naturalization. Generally, people are born U.S. citizens if they are born in the United States or if they are born to U.S. citizens. If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth or did not acquire U.S. citizenship automatically after birth, you may still be eligible to become a citizen through the normal naturalization process. People who are 18 years and older use the “Application for Naturalization” (Form N-400) to become naturalized. Persons who acquired citizenship from parent(s) while under 18 years of age use the “Application for a Certificate of Citizenship” (Form N-600) to document their naturalization. Adopted children who acquired citizenship from parent(s) use the “Application for a Certificate of Citizenship on Behalf of an Adopted Child” (Form N-643) to document their naturalization.
Naturalization is a process whereby a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) may apply to become a citizen of the United States.
There are certain eligibility requirements that must be fulfilled in order to qualify for citizenship:
Age:Applicants must be at least 18 years old. Children under 18 can apply for citizenship under different procedures.
Residency: An applicant must have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence, meaning accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant in accordance with the immigration laws. Individuals who have been lawfully admitted as permanent residents will be asked to present an I-551, Alien Registration Receipt Card (also known as Green Card), as proof of their status.
Residence and Physical Presence: An applicant is only eligible to file if, immediately preceding the filing of the application, he or she has resided continuously as a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. for at least 5 years (only 3 years if he or she acquired lawful permanent resident status through marriage to a U.S. citizen and is still married to that person at the time of application for naturalization) prior to filing with no single absence from the United States of more than one year; has been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the previous five years (18 months out of the previous three years); and has resided within a state or district for at least three months.
Good Moral Character: Generally, an applicant must show that he or she has been a person of good moral character for the statutory period (typically five years or three years if married to a U.S. citizen or one year for Armed Forces expedite) prior to filing for naturalization.
An applicant is permanently barred from naturalization if he or she has ever been convicted of murder. An applicant is also permanently barred from naturalization if he or she has been convicted of an aggravated felony as defined in section 101(a)(43) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act on or after November 29, 1990.
A person also cannot be found to be a person of good moral character if during the last five years he or she has committed certain crimes or acted in a manner the law considers improvable.
An applicant must disclose all relevant facts to USCIS, including his or her entire criminal history, regardless of whether the criminal history disqualifies the applicant under the enumerated provisions.
Please note that all male lawful permanent residents between 18 and 26 must register for the Selective Service in order to qualify for naturalization.
Attachment to the Constitution: An applicant must show that he or she is attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States.
Language: Applicants for naturalization must be able to read, write, speak and understand words in ordinary usage in the English language.There are applicants who may be exempted from these requirements, based on their age and health condition.
United States Government and History Knowledge: An applicant for naturalization must demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history and of the principles and form of government of the United States. Again, certain applicants may be exempted from this requirement.
Oath of Allegiance: To become a citizen, one must take the Oath of Allegiance. By doing so, an applicant swears to:
- support the Constitution and obey the laws of the U.S.;
- renounce any foreign allegiance and/or foreign title; and
- bear arms for the Armed Forces of the U.S. or perform services for the government of the U.S. when required.
In certain instances, where the applicant establishes that he or she is opposed to any type of service in armed forces based on religious teaching or belief, USCIS will permit these applicants to take a modified oath.