AILA Overview of the Naturalization Process and basic requirements
Naturalization is the process by which a lawful permanent resident applies for and is granted U.S. citizenship. U.S. citizenship is a legal status that offers many benefits and responsibilities, including the ability to vote in U.S. federal elections, serve on a jury, travel with a U.S. passport, and bring family members to the United States. Importantly, once obtained, U.S. citizenship cannot be abandoned or lost by spending extended periods of time outside of the United States (as is the case with permanent residence).
What are the Basic Requirements for Naturalization?
- Naturalization applicants must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be a lawful permanent resident (hold a “Green Card”) for at least five years (or three years if you are married to a U.S. citizen)
- Be able to demonstrate physical presence in the United States for at least 30 months out of the last five years prior to filing (or 18 months out of the last three years if you are married to a
- U.S. citizen)
- Be able to demonstrate continuous residence in the United States (meaning you have not been outside the United States for more than six months in a row, with some limited exceptions) Have resided for at least three months in the state where you are filing the naturalization application
- Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
- Understand the fundamentals of U.S. history and government Be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance
- Meet the good moral character requirements
What Is the Naturalization Process Like?
When you complete and submit an application to USCIS, you provide them with biographic information, including your name, address history, travel history outside the United States, children, etc. After the application is filed with the appropriate government filing fee, you will receive a receipt notice containing a number that allows you to track your case online. Weeks to months later, you will receive a biometrics appointment notice asking you to have your fingerprints and photo taken at your local USCIS office. Then, you wait to be scheduled for your naturalization interview. At the interview, an officer will test your knowledge of English and U.S. civics. You can find materials to help you study for the tests on the USCIS website.
If you pass the test and meet all other requirements for naturalization, you are scheduled for a naturalization ceremony, which is where you will take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and officially become a U.S. citizen!