Naturalization is the manner in which a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen. Foreign born individuals who have been lawfully admitted as permanent residents can apply to obtain citizenship in the U.S. and attain the same rights as American-born citizens. Applicants need to fulfill specific requirements created by Congress in order to receive naturalization. Before an individual applies for naturalization, he or she must meet a few requirements. Depending on the individual’s situation, there are different requirements that may apply. General requirements for naturalization are below.
- Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
- Be a permanent resident (have a “green card”) for at least 5 years.
- Show that you have lived for at least 3 months in the state or USCIS district where you apply.
- Demonstrate continuous residence in the United States for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400.
- Show that you have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400.
- Be able to read, write, and speak basic English.
- Have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
- Be a person of good moral character.
- Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution.
The period of waiting prior to filing for naturalization varies depending on how the permanent residence was obtained. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) who obtained their status through marriage to U.S. Citizens can apply for naturalization two years and nine months after being admitted as LPR. However, in order to be eligible for naturalization each individual must demonstrate physical presence, continuous residence and good moral character among other requirements.