Requirements for Naturalization

Naturalization is the name for the process of obtaining U.S. Citizenship for adults who were not blessed with U.S. citizenship by birth.

The requirements for naturalization include the following

1. Age

You must be 18 and older. Those under age 18 may be eligible to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship under certain conditions but a discussion of that is beyond the scope of this blog.

2. Time as a Permanent Resident (a/k/a ‘Green Card”)

Generally speaking, you must have been a legal permanent resident for at least 5 years. USCIS provides statistics indicating that over 90% of the applications for Naturalization fall into this category. Permanent residents who are currently married to a U.S. Citizen (who has been a U.S. citizen for at least the past 3 years) and have been married to and living with that same U.S. Citizen for the past 3 years they may apply for Naturalization after 3 years as a permanent resident. Members of the U.S. Armed Forces (or those filing the application for naturalization within 6 months of an honorable discharge) who have served for at least 1 year do not have a time requirement for permanent residence. They must simply be a permanent resident on the day of the naturalization interview.

3. Continuous Residence

You must prove a continuous residence in the U.S. for the last 5 years (or three years if qualifying as a spouse of a U.S. citizen.) “Continuous residence” means that you are residing in the U.S. and have not left the United States for a long period of time. If you leave the United States for too long, you may interrupt your continuous residence. If the absence is less than six months you have not broken your continuous residence. For absences of six months or more but less than one year you may be able to prove you have not broken your continuous residence. If you were outside of the U.S. for one year or more, you will almost always be considered to have disrupted your continuous residence.

The continuous residence requirement does not apply to certain applicants, such as members of the U.S. Armed Forces serving during designated periods of conflict.

4. Physical Presence in the U. S. and time as a resident of a USCIS District or State

“Physical Presence” means that you have actually been in the U.S. You must show that you have been physically been in the U.S. for at least one half of the time during the last 5 years or during the last 3 years if you are eligible to apply as a spouse of a U.S. Citizen. In addition to physical presence requirement, most people must show they were living in the USCIS district or State in which they are applying for at least 3 months before applying. Students may apply for naturalization either where they go to school or where the family lives if they are still financially dependent on their parents.

5. Good Moral Character

To be eligible for naturalization you must be a person of good moral character. A discussion about what constitutes Good Moral Character is beyond the scope of this blog but will be discussed in my next blog. Please look for this in the future.

6. English and Civics Knowledge

U.S. law requires Naturalization applicants to demonstrate:

  • “An understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak…simple words and phrases…in ordinary usage in the English language.”
  • “A knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and of the principles and form of government, of the United States.”

The process used by USCIS to test applicants on their ability to read, write and speak English and their basic knowledge of U.S. history and government will be discussed in a future blog. This upcoming blog will also discuss exceptions to the English and Civics knowledge requirements.

7. Attachment to the Constitution

Applicants for Naturalization must take an Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. Citizen. The oath and matters related to the Oath including requirements to register for the selective service will also be covered in a future blog.

At the time of writing this blog the average time for processing a Petition for Naturalization is 3- 4 months from the time of filing until the Oath Ceremony. This assumes that all goes well with the application, the background checks and the interview.

The office of Linda M Kaplan, PA is available to represent you in the Petition for Naturalization.

Linda M Kaplan
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