Naturalization is the process whereby a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen.
NOTE: In most cases, an applicant for US naturalization must be a permanent resident (green card holder) before filing. Except for certain U.S. military members and their dependents, naturalization can only be granted in the United States.
Requirements To Apply For Naturalization
A. Who May Apply For Naturalization?
- Lawful Permanent Residents who have continuously resided in the U.S. after receipt of permanent residence for at least 5 years prior to filing with no single absence from the U.S. of more than six months.
- Lawful Permanent Residents who are currently married to a U.S. citizen, have continuously resided in the U.S. for 3 years after receipt of permanent residence, and have been married to the same U.S. citizen for the past 3 years.
- Lawful Permanent Residents with 1 year of U.S. Military Service (or have been discharged within the previous six months).
- Lawful Permanent Residents with less than one year of U.S. Military Service or had more than 1 year of service but was discharged more than six months ago
- Foreign nationals who served honorably in the U.S. Military during any of the periods of armed conflict with hostile foreign forces and those serving on or after September 11, 2001.
- Foreign nationals married to a U.S. citizen who died during a period of honorable active duty service in the U.S. Armed Forces.
- Lawful Permanent Residents who have served on a vessel operated by the U.S. government or a vessel registered in the U.S. and owned by a U.S. corporation or citizen, who have been lawful permanent residents for at least 5 years (time spent on the ship does not break “continuous presence”).
- Lawful Permanent Residents who are performing ministerial or priestly functions for a religious denomination or an interdenominational organization, who have resided in the U.S. after receipt of permanent residence for at least 5 years.
NOTE: This list is not exhaustive. If you feel you qualify for naturalization but are note sure, please contact VisaPro to set up a consultation.
B. Who Cannot Apply For US Naturalization?
Foreign nationals who do not meet the following requirements/ conditions are not eligible to apply for United States naturalization:
1. Age: Applicants must be at least 18 years old.
2. Admission into the U.S.: Most applicants must be lawfully admitted for permanent residence and be legally accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the U.S. for at least:
i. Five years before applying for naturalization
ii. Three years, if they are married to, and are living with the same U.S. citizen, before applying for naturalization
3. Physical Presence in the U.S.: Most applicants must have resided for at least:
i. Thirty months in the U.S. during the previous five years (18 months during the previous three years for spouses of U.S. citizens) preceding your application for naturalization
ii. Three months in the USCIS district where you are filing your application for naturalization
NOTE: Your time as a permanent resident begins on the date you were granted permanent resident status. This date is on your permanent resident card (formerly known as Alien Registration Card). You will have to produce Form I-551, alien registration receipt card, as proof of your status.
4. Good Moral Character: You must prove that you have been a person of good moral character.
5. Ability to Read, Write and Speak English: You must be able to read, write, speak, and understand words in ordinary usage in the English language. You may claim an exemption from this requirement if, on the date of filing:
i. You have been residing in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for 15 years or more, and are over 55 years of age
ii. You have been residing in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for 20 years or more, and are over 50 years of age, or
iii. You have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects your ability to learn English
6. Knowledge and Understanding of U.S. History and Government: You must demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history and of the principles and form of government of the U.S. You may claim exemption from this requirement, if on the date of filing, you have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects your ability to learn U.S. History and Government.
IMPORTANT: If you have been residing in the U.S. subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for at least 20 years and are over the age of 65, you will be afforded special consideration in satisfying this requirement.
7. Oath of Allegiance: To become a citizen, you must take the oath of allegiance. By doing so, you swear to:
i. Support the Constitution and obey the laws of the U.S
ii. Renounce any foreign allegiance and/or foreign title, and
iii. Bear arms for the Armed Forces of the U.S. or perform services for the government of the U.S. when required
NOTE: 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, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will permit these applicants to take a modified oath.
Citizenship Through Naturalization VS. Citizenship By Birth
|By Naturalization||By Birth|
|Definition||U.S. citizenship acquired through a process mandated by regulations for those not born in the U.S.||U.S. citizenship acquired by birth.|
|Nature||Voluntary. If a qualified individual wants to become a U.S. citizen, he or she can apply for naturalization.||Automatic. If an individual is born in the U.S., he or she is automatically a U.S. citizen.|
|Permanent Residency Requirement||In most circumstances, an individual is required to be a legal permanent resident (Green Card holder) before he or she can apply for naturalization.||NOT APPLICABLE|
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