Requirements for Obtaining Citizenship
Here is a basic overview of how the citizenship application process works.
Naturalization is the process of becoming a citizen of the United States. All applications for naturalization are managed by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
For basic eligibility to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you must first spend at least five years as a legal permanent resident of the United States, during which time you can prove you did not take any trips abroad for more than six months and were present in the United States for not less than half of the entire period (two-and-a-half years). Additional factors, such as marriage to a U.S. citizen, may affect eligibility for citizenship.
Additionally, people may qualify for naturalization as a result of:
- Birth in the United States: All persons born in the United States are citizens regardless of the status of their parents. This is true whether the parents are citizens, green card holders, students, tourists, or illegal aliens.
- Acquisition at birth: A child born outside the United States where one or both parents are United States citizens may acquire U.S. citizenship at birth.
- Derivation through the naturalization of parents: A child born outside the United States may become a citizen by virtue of the naturalization of his or her parents.
Generally speaking, to qualify for citizenship, you must:
- Be a lawful permanent U.S. resident.
- Be 18 years of age or older.
- Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for not less than five years.
- Have resided for not less than three months in the state where the petition was filed.
- Be physically present in the United States for at least one-half of the five years, with no absences longer than six months.
- Have resided continuously within the United States from the date the petition was filed to the time of admission to citizenship.
- Have been a person of good moral character for the five years of residence.
- Have an elementary level of reading and writing English. Exceptions to this rule exist for persons over fifty, in the U.S. for 20 years or more as a permanent resident; and for persons over 55, in the U.S. for 15 years as a permanent resident.
- Have a basic knowledge of the fundamentals of U.S. government and history. This requirement can be waived for people over 65 and have been a permanent resident for 20 years.