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Naturalize

Benefits of obtaining United States citizenship
  • Citizens have full rights and protections under the United States Constitution. Non-citizens, even lawful permanent residents with long term residence in the United States, may face the loss of their status under certain circumstances as a result of changes in immigration law.
  • U.S. citizens are able to sponsor immediate relatives (spouses, unmarried minor children and parents) for Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status without a long wait for a visa to become available. The may also sponsor these other relatives, subject to visa availability:
    • unmarried adult sons and daughters;
    • married sons and daughters; and,
    • brothers and sisters.
  • Possession of a United States passport.
  • Ability to travel, and even live, abroad without fear of jeopardizing LPR status.
  • Citizens may not be removed, or deported, from the United States. They are also able to re-enter the United States easily without being required to establish admissibility each time.
  • Ability to vote and fully participate in the U.S. electoral process.
  • Only U.S. citizens are able to hold elected public office.
  • Eligibility for many government-related jobs is restricted to citizens only.
  • Eligibility for public benefits from which non-citizens, including LPRs, may be excluded.
  • Receipt of Social Security benefits worldwide without concern over reciprocity agreements.
  • Entitlement to substantial deductions on U.S. estate tax.
  • No address change or other CIS reporting requirements.
  • Citizens are always eligible for Social Security and Medicare benefits, which many non-citizens may not be.
Path to U.S. Citizenship
This page describes the most common path to U.S. citizenship, which allows a green card holder (permanent resident) of at least 5 years to apply for naturalization. Other paths include:
  • Green card holders married to U.S. citizens
  • Green card holders in the military and their family
  • Citizenship through parents
Eligibility Requirements
If you are a green card holder of at least 5 years, you must meet the following requirements in order to apply for naturalization:
  • Be 18 or older
  • Be a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  • Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
  • Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of the filing the application
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
  • Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during  all relevant periods under the law
Naturalization for Spouses of U.S. Citizens
In general, you may qualify for naturalization under Section 319(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) if you
  • Have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 year
  • Have been living in marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse during such time
  • Meet all other eligibility requirements under this section
In certain cases, spouses of U.S. citizens employed abroad may qualify for naturalization regardless of their time as permanent residents. These spouses may qualify under Section 319(b) of the INA.

For information relating to spouses of military members, see our Members of the Military and Their Families page. Also for information about becoming a permanent resident or petitioning for family members, please visit our Green Card or Family webpages.

General Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for naturalization pursuant to section 319(a) of the INA, an applicant must:
  • Be 18 or older
  • Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  • Have been living in marital union with the U.S. citizen spouse, who has been a U.S. citizen during all of such period, during the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application and up until examination on the application
  • Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of  filing the application
  • Have continuous residence in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization until the time of naturalization
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 18 months out of the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (also known as civics)
  • Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during  all relevant periods under the law
Spouses of U.S. Citizens Employed Abroad
Generally, the spouse of a U.S. citizen who is employed by the U.S. government, including the military, or other qualifying employer, whose spouse is stationed abroad in such employment for at least 1 year, may be eligible for naturalization under Section 319(b) of the INA. 

In general, a spouse of a U.S. citizen employed abroad must be present in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence at the time of examination on the naturalization application and at the time of naturalization, and  meet of all of the requirements listed above except that:
  • No specific period as a permanent resident (green card holder) is required (but the spouse must be a permanent resident)
  • No specific period of continuous residence or physical presence in the United States is required
  • No specific period of marital union is required; however, the spouses must be living in marital union.
Note: You must also establish that you will depart abroad immediately after naturalization and that you intend to reside in the United States immediately upon the termination of your spouse’s employment abroad.

Citizenship for Military Personnel & Family Members
US Immigration law recognizes the important sacrifices made by non-U.S. citizen members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. 

Members of the U.S. armed forces and their dependents (spouses and children) may be eligible for citizenship, to include expedited and overseas processing, under special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). 

Citizenship for Military Members
Members of the U.S. armed forces may be eligible for citizenship by qualifying for naturalization through military service under Section 328 or 329 of the INA.

Citizenship for Spouses & Children of Military Members
Spouses of U.S. citizen members of the U.S. armed forces who are (or will be) deployed may be eligible for expedited naturalization or for overseas processing. Children of U.S. citizen military members deployed abroad may be eligible for overseas processing.  Contact us for more information in this regard.

Citizenship Through Parents
If you were born outside the United States to a U.S. citizen parent or parents, you may be a U.S. citizen. 

Biological or Adopted Children Residing in the United States
A child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when all of the following conditions have been met under section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Child Citizenship Act (CCA):
  • At least one parent of the child is a U.S. citizen, whether by birth or naturalization.
  • The child is under the age of 18 years.
  • The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent based on a lawful admission for permanent residence.
  • An adopted child may automatically become a citizen under section 320 of the INA if the child satisfies the requirements applicable to adopted children under sections 101(b)(1)(E), (F) or (G) of the INA.
To qualify as a “child” for purposes of section 320 of the INA, the individual must be unmarried.  Also, a person who was born out of wedlock (meaning that the parents were not married at the time of the person’s birth), must be “legitimated” while under the age of 16 and while in the legal custody of the legitimating parent. See section 101(c)(1) of the INA.  Finally, a stepchild who has not been adopted does not qualify as a child under this section.

A person who satisfies the requirements of section 320 of the INA before turning 18 automatically obtains citizenship without having to file an application.  However, in order to obtain a certificate of citizenship from USCIS, an individual must file Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship. 

Biological or Adopted Children Residing Outside the United States
Biological or adopted children who regularly reside outside of the United States may qualify for naturalization under section 322 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Child Citizenship Act (CCA). In general, to be eligible for citizenship under section 322 of the INA, a child must meet the following requirements:
  • At least one parent is a U.S. citizen or, if deceased, the parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of death.
  • The U.S. citizen parent or his or her U.S. citizen parent has (or at the time of death had) been physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for at least 5 years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of 14.
  • The child is under the age of 18 years.
  • The child is residing outside of the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent (or, if the citizen parent is deceased, an individual who does not object to the application).
  • The child is temporarily present in the United States after having entered lawfully and is maintaining lawful status in the United States.
  • An adopted child may be eligible for naturalization under section 322 of the INA if the child satisfies the requirements applicable to adopted children under sections 101(b)(1)(E), (F) or (G) of the INA. 
To qualify as a “child” for purposes of this section, the person must be unmarried.  Also, a person who was born out of wedlock (meaning that the parents were not married at the time of the person’s birth), must be “legitimated” while under the age of 16 and while in the legal custody of the legitimating parent. See section 101(c)(1) of the INA.  Finally, a stepchild who has not been adopted does not qualify as a child under this section. 

An application on behalf of an eligible child must be filed on Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate under section 322 of the INA. See the Citizenship and Naturalization Based Forms for more information. The Form N-600K must be filed on behalf of the child by the U.S. citizen parent.  If the U.S. citizen parent of the child has died, a U.S. citizen grandparent or U.S. citizen legal guardian may apply on behalf of the child within 5 years of the parent's death.

To obtain citizenship under section 322 of the INA, the application must be filed, approved, and the child must take the oath of allegiance, if required to do so, before the child reaches age 18.

Note: For children of some members of the military who are overseas on active duty, section 322(d) of the INA waives the requirement that the child be temporarily present in the United States and provides that any period of residence overseas on active duty qualifies as residence in the United States. 

 

 
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