Naturalization & Citizenship

After obtaining permanent residency, you are on the path towards U.S. citizenship. However, citizenship through naturalization does not come automatically. One must file for naturalization, and there are many conditions which must be met. Below is an outline of important conditions which must be met for anyone seeking U.S. citizenship through naturalization.

Study materials for Naturalization

General Requirements

      a) age: one must be 18 years of age to file for naturalization.

      b) permanent resident : one must have been lawfully admitted as a permanent resident of the U.S. for naturalization eligibility.

      c) continuous residence: one must have resided continuously within the U.S. for a period of at least 5 years after having been lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

      d) pysical presence : one must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months (2.5 years) for the 5 years preceding the date of filing the application.

      e) other residence requirements: Immediately preceeding the filing of the application (or examination if the application was filed early), the applicant must have resided for at least 3 months in a State or Service district having jurisdiction over the applicant's actual place of residence. In addition, the applicant must have resided continuously within the U.S. from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of admission to citizenship.

      f) good moral character : For all relevant time periods above, the applicant must have been and continues to be a person of good moral character (GMC), attached to the principles of the Constitution and favorably disposed toward the good order and happiness of the U.S. One lacks GMC if convicted of murder or any aggravated felony. One also lacks GMC if during the 5 year statutory period prior to application the applicant has 1) commited one or more crimes involving moral turpitude, 2) committed two or more offenses for which the applicant was convicted and the aggregate sentence actually imposed was 5 years or more, 3) violated any law of the U.S. or foreign country relating to a controlled substance, except for a single offense of 30 grams or less of marijuana. Numerous other criminal acts during this 5 year statutory period result in a lack of GMC. In addition, the adjudicating officer can point to crimes occuring before the statutory period if the conduct of the applicant during the statutory period does not reflect reform of character from the earlier period.

      b) permanent resident : Demonstrate an understanding of the English language and a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, principals and form of government of the U.S. However, these requirements do not apply to any person who is unable because of physical or developmental disability or mental impairment to comply (need to file a form N-648). The requirement of understanding the English language also does not apply to one over 50 who has been living in the US for at least 20 years subsequent to permanent residence or to one over 55 who has been living in the US for periods totally at least 15 years subsequence ot permanent residence. Special consideration on the history requirements are also given to one over 65 who has been living in the US for periods totaling at least 20 years subsequent to permanent residence.

Special Eligibility Requirements for Certain Individuals:

       a) spouses of United States Citizens (USCs) : any person whose spouse is a citizen of the U.S., or any person who obtained lawful permanent residence by reason of his or her status as a spouse or child of a USC who battered him or her or subjected him/her to extreme cruelty, may be naturalzied upon compliance with all the general requirements above except that the period of continuous residence is 3 years rather then 5 years and the physical presence is 1/2 that period or 18 months. During that 3 years continous residence the applicant must have been living in marital union with the USC spouse (except in the case of the battered spouse).

      b) persons in the armed forces : a person who has served honorably at any time in the armed forces of the US for a period aggregating 1 year may be naturalized without meeting any of the residence or physical presence general requirements above if such person files the application while still in the service or within 6 months after honorable discharge of such service. The rules get even more relaxed for any person who has served during periods of active conflict. To naturalize, these people also do not need to meet any residence or physical presence requirements, and they can be of any age. In addition, such person must either be permanent residents or they can satisfy the permanent residence requirement so long as their enlistment or induction occurred while pshyically present in the geographical territory of the U.S. Moreover, such an applicant needs to show good moral character for only at least 1 year prior to the filing of the application.