Naturalization is the process by which an immigrant who meets certain requirements becomes a US citizen. When you are naturalized, you accept all of the responsibilities of a citizen, and you can get all of the benefits and privileges that are part of citizenship in the United States. For instance, you cannot be deported if you are a US citizen.
Requirements for naturalization
Generally, you can naturalize if:
- You are at least 18 years old;
- You have had a green card and continuous residence in the United States for at least 5 years before filing an application;
- You have lived in the same state USCIS district for at least 3 months before filing an application;
- You have been physically present in the US for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately before filing an application. You must subtract all trips outside of the US from this period;
- You live in the US from the date you file your application to the time of naturalization;
- You are considered to have “good moral character” by the USCIS. If you have certain kinds of criminal convictions, you will not meet this requirement;
- You understand US history and government, and are able to read, write, and speak English. To see if there is an exception to the English requirement because of your age or disability, see Exceptions and Accommodations; and
- You will swear an oath of allegiance to the US and agree to uphold the US Constitution.
Naturalization when married to a US citizen
Generally when immigrants obtain their lawful permanent resident status they must wait 5 years in the United States before applying for US citizenship. But if you obtained your permanent residence by marriage to your US citizen spouse then you may apply after only 3 years. You still must meet all of the other eligibility requirements for naturalization.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has prepared a guide about naturalization for immigrants: A Guide to Naturalization.
The guide explains who can naturalize and gives information about:
- What to expect when you apply for citizenship
- How to complete your application for naturalization including information about getting fingerprinted and photographed
- Frequently asked questions, such as what form to use to apply for naturalization, where to send the form, how much to pay, how to pay, how to get fingerprinted, how to check the status of your application, and how to appeal the denial of your application