Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Filing for U.S. Citizenship can be a long, complicated process but the benefits are worth it. Know that USCIS will reinvestigate your immigration history. You will be questioned about all trips abroad, so it is important that you come prepared with the documentation that will support why you left the US. Above all else, be truthful to USCIS, if any fraud is detected, not only will USCIS deny your citizenship application but you could be stripped of your green card and deported.
- Have the right to vote
- Able to run for public office (except president and vice president)
- Eligible for federal employment/benefits
- Able to travel abroad indefinitely
- Cannot be deported for any reason (unless information for green card/citizenship was falsified)
- Able to sponsor parents/siblings for green cards
- US Passports, can enter 174 countries visa-free
- Can omit renouncing of other citizenship to have dual-citizenship (If country of origin allows dual citizenship as well)
- You are at least 18 years old
- You have lived in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for at least 5 years unless you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, refugee, or obtained your LPR through political asylum.
- You have been present in the U.S. for at least half of the past five years
- You have not spent more than a year at a time outside of the U.S.
- You do not have a primary home outside the U.S.
- You are of good moral character
- You can read, write and speak English (There are some exceptions to this requirement)
- You must pass a U.S. history and government test.
- You must be willing to affirm that you believe in the principles of the U.S. Constitution and will be loyal to the U.S.
The English proficiency test is composed of reading, writing and speaking. At the time of your interview, the USCIS officer will determine your English proficiency. To prove reading proficiency, you will be require to read one of three sentences correctly. The writing test requires that you write out one of three sentences correctly.
Because of their age and time in the United States, certain applicants are exempted from the English Requirements and can take the civics portion of the test in the language of their choice.
- If you are age 50 or over at the time you filed for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident for 20 years (this is referred as the 50/20 rule) or
- If you are age 55 or older at the time you filed for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years (this is referred as the 55/15 rule)
The prospective citizen must have knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history and government. This is determined by the administration of a multiple choice test. In general, those exempt from the English requirement must still meet this requirement. Exceptions are those who are mentally and physically impaired and special considerations can be given to those who are exempt from the English requirement based on age and length of stay. Those special considerations are usually a test in modified form.
If you meet the English requirement exemption, you will be allowed to take the Civics portion of your test in the language of your choice. However, you must provide your own interpreter and they must be fluent in both English and your native language. If you are over 65 and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years when you filed for naturalization, you will be given special consideration with regard to the civics requirement.
A person is a citizen at birth when born outside the U.S. under the following circumstances:
- Both parents were U.S. citizens when the person was born and at least one of the parents lived in the United States at some point in their life. The record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of citizenship. A person in this scenario may also apply for a passport to have his citizenship recognized. If he/she needs additional proof of citizenship, he/she may file an “Application for Certificate of Citizenship” (Form N-600 for natural offspring or Form N-643 for adoptees) with the USCIS to get a Certificate of Citizenship; or,
- One parent was a U.S. citizen when the person was born and the citizen parent lived at least five years in the United States before he was born, where at least two of the five years were after the citizen parent attained the age of fourteen. The record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of citizenship. A person in this scenario may also apply for a passport to have his citizenship recognized. If he needs additional proof of citizenship, he may file a Form N-600 for natural offspring or a N-643 for adoptees with the USCIS to get a Certificate of Citizenship.
If an alien served in the U.S. military for at least three years and is a lawful permanent resident, then he is excused from the regular residence requirements if an application for naturalization is filed while the applicant is still serving or within six months of an honorable discharge. To be eligible for this exemption, an applicant must:
- have served honorably or separated under honorable conditions;
- completed three years or more of military service;
- be a legal permanent resident at the time of his or her examination on the application;
- establish good moral character if service was discontinuous or not honorable.