WHAT IS NATURALIZATION?
Naturalization is the legal process by which foreign nationals receive U.S. citizenship following certain requirements. The official requirements for obtaining U.S. citizenship were established in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (INA).
WHO MAY QUALIFY FOR NATURALIZATION
People who meet the following requirements generally may qualify for a naturalization path:
- If you served honorably in one of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and meet the other eligibility requirements.
- If you have been a permanent resident of the United States for at least 5 years and meet the other eligibility requirements.
- If you have been a permanent resident of the United States and married to a U.S. citizen for at least 3 years and meet the other eligibility requirements.
- If you are the son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, whether genetic, legitimated or adopted, and meet the other eligibility requirements.
OTHER REQUIREMENTS FOR NATURALIZATION
In general, individuals seeking naturalization as U.S. citizens must meet certain specific requirements, such as the following:
- Be 18 years of age or older
- Submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
- Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization until the time of naturalization
- Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (also known as 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.
- Fulfill certain residency and permanency requirements depending on your path to citizenship. (These may vary as to length of time required.)
- Other requirements as required by your specific path to citizenship. Because naturalization law is complex and there are many paths to U.S. citizenship, there is not one single set of guidelines which all naturalization applicants must meet.
INVESTIGATION AND EXAMINATION
Unites States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducts investigations and examinations of all naturalization applicants to ensure they meet the eligibility requirements for citizenship.
These requirements generally include:
- Review of the applicant’s complete immigration record;
- In-person interview(s) with oral and written testimony;
- Completion of security and criminal background checks;
- English language testing and civics examinations; and
- Qualification for a disability exception (if applicable).
THE NATURALIZATION EXAM
Unless you meet the requirements to qualify for an exemption or a waiver, you will need to pass the naturalization exams. These tests will verify that you are well-informed regarding basic American history and government. They will also determine whether you have sufficient proficiency with the English language. Some applicants are exempt from the English language requirement due to their age or time as a permanent resident, and may then take the civics exam in the language of their choice.