U.S. citizenship is granted either by birth or by naturalization. When applying to be a citizen by naturalization, there will be a few things you’ll need to learn. The first thing to learn is the basic requirement for naturalization.
Naturalization is the process by which you demonstrate that you are ready to become a U.S. citizen. You become eligible for naturalization after being a permanent resident of the U.S. for a certain period of time that will depend on your circumstance. For most permanent residents, it’s after 5 years. However, you are eligible for citizenship after 3 years of permanent residency if you are currently married to and living with a U.S. citizen, and you are eligible for citizenship after 1 year of permanent residency if you have served in the U.S. Armed Forces for at least 1 year.
Once you determine whether or not you have spent the adequate amount of time as permanent resident, you must learn the other naturalization requirements.
Naturalization: 18 or Older Requirement
You must be 18 years or older at the time of filing the application.
Naturalization: Of Good Moral Character Requirement
There is no straight-forward definition to this term, but, in legal terms, good moral character means that your past actions and behaviors demonstrate that you are a person who abides by the law and that you are a productive member of your community. Some examples of actions and behaviors not considered of good moral character are criminal convictions, failure to pay court-ordered child support and falsely claiming U.S. citizenship.
Naturalization: Continuous Residence Requirement
Continuous residence means that you have maintained residence in the amount of time required. As mentioned above, it’s going to be 5 years, 3 years or 1 year depending on your situation as a permanent resident. In those years, you have to have maintained continuous residence, which means that you cannot have left the country for more than six months, for a trip outside the country for longer than six months breaks continuous residency. A trip outside the country longer than 1 year could put your permanent residency in danger because the USCIS could consider it to be a sign of you giving up your permanent residency.
Naturalization: Physical Presence Requirement
If you are like most permanent residents and are applying for naturalization after 5 years of continuous residence, you must have spent the last 30 months in the U.S. This means that you cannot have had traveled outside the country during that time. If you are applying for naturalization after 3 years of permanent residency because you are currently married to and living with a U.S. citizen, you must have spent the last 18 months in the U.S. If you are a permanent resident in the U.S. Armed Forces applying after 1 year of service, you are exempt from the physical presence requirement.
Naturalization: Residence Requirement
You must have resided in the state in which you are applying for naturalization for at least three months prior to application. If you are a permanent resident in the U.S. Armed Forces, you are exempt from the residence requirement.
Naturalization: English Requirement
The English language requirement includes three parts: reading, writing and speaking. During your naturalization application process, you will be required to have an interview with an USCIS officer who will check if you can in fact read, write and speak English. The speaking test will be administered throughout the entire interview since you will have to speak with the USCIS officer in English. For the reading and writing test, you will first have to read aloud at least one of three sentences correctly and then you will have to write at least one of three sentences correctly.
Note: You are exempt of the English requirement if you are 50 years or older at the time of naturalization and have been a permanent resident for 20 years. You are also exempt if you are 55 years or older at the time of naturalization and have been a permanent resident for 15 years.
Naturalization: U.S. History and Civics Requirement
To ensure that you are prepared to become a U.S. citizen, your knowledge of history and civics will be tested during the naturalization interview. Out of 100 potential questions, you will be asked 10 questions at random. Of those 10 questions, you are required to answer at least 6 of them correctly.
Study materials for the naturalization test and interview are highly recommended.
Applying for Naturalization
Make sure you have all the requirements above, apply for naturalization using Form N-400 and you will be on your way to becoming a U.S. citizen.