In order to be approved for naturalization and receive the full benefits of American citizenship, the applicant must first meet a number of requirements.
Among the eligibility requirements for naturalization are the following:
- The applicant must be at least 18 years of age. Those under 18 years of age (children of US citizens born outside the US) petition for naturalization through a resident adult (typically a parent).
- The applicant must be possessed of good moral character. The list of actions or situations that signify poor moral character is listed here.
- The applicant must have been lawfully admitted to the US and must have also consistently maintained all residency requirements that make them eligible for naturalization. Please see the “Specific Statutory Requirements” section below
- The applicant must have maintained adequate “physical presence” within the United States. That is, they must have been within the country for at least 30 months in the past five years. If the applicant has been outside the US for more than six months (consecutively), they are required to show maintenance of their American residence during that period. Note that employment with certain research, religious groups, trade and commerce, government agencies or the like can nullify the “physical presence” requisite
- The applicant must have lived for at least three months in the state or USCIS district that he or she is filing from
- The applicant must exhibit a certain level of proficiency in reading, writing and understanding the English language. These skills are tested during the naturalization interview.
- The applicant must exhibit that they have abided by the tenants of the US Constitution
- The applicant must exhibit knowledge of the history and precepts of the United States government
- The applicant must be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance - In taking the Oath of Allegiance, he or she renounces all foreign allegiances and titles, agrees to bear arms in military service, avows to support the Constitution and agrees to obey all US laws
Specific Statutory Requirements
The periods below refer to how long lawful permanent residents have to maintain residency and physical presence before applying for naturalization.
Lawful permanent residents: Generally five years.
Spouses of permanent residents: Three years as long as they have been married to and living with the same citizen spouse for all that time. Note that residency/physical presence requirements still apply to that three year period.
Military Veterans: Lawful permanent residents are waived from statutory time periods (residency and physical presence requirements) after serving in the US military for three years. The applicant must have been honorably discharged from service and be of good moral character. Such individuals are required to file an N-426 (Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service) along with their initial application for naturalization.