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Citizenship (Naturalization)

Overview

Naturalization is the process by which United States citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). There are certain waivers available for persons unable to read, write and understand English. If you are an adoptive or biological child of a United States citizen under the age of 21 you may obtain citizenship as a derivative.

Requirements

  • You have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements.
  • You have been a permanent resident for 3 years or more and meet all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a United States citizen.
  • You have qualifying service in the United States armed forces and meet all other eligibility requirements.
  • Your child may qualify for naturalization if you are a United States citizen, the child was born outside the United States, the child is currently residing outside the United States., and all other eligibility requirements are met.

Generally, one must:

  • Be 18 or older;
  • Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application;
  • Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
  • Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application;
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years, immediately preceding the date of filing the application;
  • Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization;
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of United States history and government (Civics);
  • Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law;
  • Meet all other eligibility requirements under this section.

Spouse to a United States citizen must:

  • Be 18 or older;
  • Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application;
  • Have been living in marital union with the same United States citizen spouse during such time
  • Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application;
  • Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of the filing the application;
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 18 months out of the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application;
  • Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization;
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of United States history and government (Civics);
  • Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law;
  • Meet all other eligibility requirements under this section.

For Naturalization Through Military Service one must:

  • Good moral character;
  • Knowledge of the English language;
  • Knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics); and
  • Attachment to the United States by taking an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution;
  • Be served or serving with one of the following branches military services: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, certain components of the National Guard and the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve. [In addition, spouses of members of the U.S. armed forces who are or will be deployed may be eligible for expedited naturalization. Other provisions of the law also allow certain spouses to complete the naturalization process abroad.]

Qualified members of the U.S. armed forces are exempt from other naturalization requirements, including residence and physical presence in the United States. These exceptions are listed in Sections 328 and 329 of the INA.
All aspects of the naturalization process, including applications, interviews, and ceremonies are available overseas to members of the U.S. armed forces and certain “command-sponsored” spouses.
A person who obtains U.S. citizenship through his or her military service and separates from the military under “other than honorable conditions” before completing five years of honorable service may have his or her citizenship revoked.

Service in Peacetime

Section 328 of the INA applies to all members of the U.S. armed forces and those already discharged from service. An individual may qualify for naturalization if he or she has:

  • Served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least one year
  • Obtained lawful permanent resident status, and
  • Filed an application while still in the service or within six months of separation

Service During Periods of Hostilities

Under special provisions in Section 329 of the INA, the president signed an executive order on July 3, 2002, authorizing all noncitizens who have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces on or after Sept. 11, 2001, to immediately file for citizenship. This order also covers veterans of certain designated past wars and conflicts. The authorization will remain in effect until a date designated by a future presidential executive order.

Naturalization at Basic Training

USCIS and the Army established the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative in August 2009 to give noncitizen enlistees the opportunity to naturalize when they graduate from basic training. (The Navy joined the initiative in 2010.) Under this initiative, USCIS conducts all naturalization processing including the capture of biometrics, the naturalization interview, and administration of the Oath of Allegiance on the military base so (in most cases) the recruit is able to graduate from basic training as a U.S. citizen.

Posthumous Benefits

A member of the U.S. armed forces who served honorably during a designated period of hostility and died as a result of injury or disease incurred in or aggravated by that service (including death in combat) may be eligible to receive posthumous citizenship, as long as the next-of-kin applies for posthumous citizenship within two years of the service member’s death. Other provisions of the law extend immigration benefits to the service member’s surviving spouses, children and parents.