Naturalization (N-400)

Overview

The naturalization process by which an individual will become a lawful U.S. citizen and who has fulfilled the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). After naturalization, foreign-born citizens enjoy nearly all of the same benefits, rights, and responsibilities that the Constitution gives to native-born U.S. citizens, including the right to vote.

Requirements

If you are interested in applying for U.S. citizenship, first make sure that all of the following apply:

  • You must be admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident (LPR), commonly referred to as a person who possesses green card status. There is only one exception to this requirement: If an applicant has served in the U.S. armed forces during war, that person may be naturalized without first becoming a permanent resident if they were in the U.S. upon induction or enlistment into the U.S. military.
  • You must have had continuous residence in the US for at least five years immediately preceding filing for naturalization.  Continuous residence is not the same thing as physically present here. That is, one must maintain their status as a legal permanent resident but not necessarily be physically inside the borders of the U.S. to accomplish this.  For example, if you are overseas for a portion of this period, maintaining an address location and paying your state and federal taxes may help ensure continuity of residence for this requirement.  Also, if you are overseas for any more than a few months, it may be advisable to obtain a travel document prior to departing. Only three years continuous residence are required if you are filing for U.S. citizenship based upon marriage. This exception applies if you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen and have been married for three years; are the battered spouse of a U.S. citizen (even if you are separated or divorced); are a refugee or political asylee; in the U.S. military or are a widow or widower of someone in the U.S. military; or are a spouse of a U.S. citizen in particular overseas jobs.
  • You must have an actual physical residence (within the state in which the petition is filed) during at least the three months immediately before filing for U.S. citizenship is another requirement.
  • You must be physically present within the U.S. for a total of at least one half of the period of required continuous residence. That is, two and a half years for most applicants and one and a half years for spouses of U.S. citizens.
  • You must have continuous residence (but not necessarily physical presence) in the U.S. from the date of filing the naturalization application up to the date of being sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
  • You must have the ability to read, write and speak ordinary English unless you are physically unable to do so due to a disability such as being blind or deaf, or suffer from a developmental disability or mental impairment. Those over 50 years old on the date of filing who have lived in the U.S. for a total of at least 20 years after admission as a permanent resident and those who are over 55 and have been legal permanent residents for at least 15 years are also exempt from this requirement.
  • You must have a basic understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history and government. There is an oral test that covers fundamentals of U.S. history and government and it is required for naturalization.
  • You must be of good moral character and an affinity for the principles of the U.S. Constitution. Good moral character is reflected in the applicant's behavior before applying for US citizenship. Good moral character is demonstrated by paying taxes and having a clean criminal record, for example, and is an important part of qualifying for naturalization.
  • You must be at least 18 years of age at the time of filing. Certain exceptions exist, however, for the children of other permanent residents who are seeking naturalization.

Other Paths to Citizenship

An applicant under the age of 18, may still qualify for naturalization if one of his or her parents is a citizen or becomes a citizen of the United States.

Period of Stay

As stated above, naturalization allows the applicant to live permanently in the U.S. along with their spouse and children under the age of 21 years.

For further details, please click here.

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