Naturalization is the process where a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a US citizen. If you wish to become a US citizen, you should file Form N- 400, the citizenship application.
The eligibility requirements:
You have to meet certain strict eligibility requirements to become a US citizen. You should be :
- 18 years or older.
- a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder). You should be a permanent resident for five years to be eligible. If you are married to a US citizen, then it is three years of permanent residency. It is important that you are in marriage to a US citizen and living with that US citizen for the past 3 three years of your permanent residency for the criteria to be applicable.
- residing in the US for a continuous period of time before filing the application. If you are not married to a US citizen, you should reside in the US for a continuous period of five years after getting admitted to the US as a green card holder. If you are married to a US citizen, you should reside in the US for a continuous period of three years after being admitted to the US as a green card holder.
Being away from the US for a long period of time will break the continuity of the your residence in the US for naturalization purposes. However, it will not affect if you return to the US as a permanent resident. Being abroad for a period of six months or more will break the continuity of residence. If the break is between six months and one year, it can be considered if you can provide a reasonable explanation for the absence (such as overseas employment). Even if you are abroad for more than a year, the continuity of residence can be preserved, if you take necessary steps before the one year period expires.
In addition to these, you should also fulfill physical presence requirements. You have to be physically present in the country for a stipulated period of time to qualify for citizenship. Before applying for US citizenship, you should have resided in your current state for at least three months. Current state simply means the state where you are filing the N-400 form.
It is very important that you should not have broken any US immigration laws and should not have been ordered to leave the US. You are required to prove at least 5 years of good moral character. Apart from these requirements, you should also take an English language test and a Civics test. You have to prove that you can read, write and speak basic English and that they also have basic knowledge of US history and government. Some applicants can be exempted from taking these tests if they have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where it affects his/her ability to learn English and Civics. And finally, you should be prepared to take an oath of allegiance to the US to become a citizen of the United States.