Apply for U.S. Citizenship

The most common path to U.S. citizenship allows a permanent resident Green Card holder to apply for naturalization. Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen after he or she fulfills the requirements established by the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The Pathway to U.S. Citizenship

For an adult immigrant to become a U.S. citizen, you must go through the process of naturalization. The most common paths to U.S. citizenship through naturalization call for the immigrant to meet the following criteria…

1

Permanent Resident

US Citizenship through Green Card

If you have been a permanent resident green card holder for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements, you may qualify to apply for U.S. citizenship.

2

Married to a U.S. Citizen

US Citizenship through Marriage

If you have been a permanent resident green card holder for 3 years or more through marriage to a U.S. citizen, you may qualify to apply for U.S. citizenship.

3

Child of a U.S. Citizen

US Citizenship through Parents

If you are the child of a U.S. citizen you may qualify for naturalization if you were born outside the U.S. to a U.S. citizen, you may apply for U.S. citizenship.

4

U.S. Military Service

US Citizenship through US Military Service

If you have qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces and meet all other eligibility requirements, you may qualify to apply for U.S. citizenship.

If you have not acquired a permanent resident green card, you cannot apply for U.S. citizenship. Learn more about acquiring a green card here…

Learn About Getting a U.S. Green Card

U.S. Citizenship Eligibility Requirements…

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 years of age or older at the time of filing
  • Be a permanent resident Green Card holder for at least 5 years
  • 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. Students may apply for naturalization either where they go to school or where their family lives.
  • Have continuous residence in the United States as a Green Card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of 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

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for naturalization through marriage, an applicant must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Be a permanent resident Green Card holder for at least 3 years
  • Have been living in marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse during the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • Have lived within the United States 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 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
  • 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

Eligibility Requirements

There are two general ways to obtain citizenship through U.S. citizen parents: at birth, and after birth but before the age of 18. Congress has enacted laws that determine how citizenship is conveyed by a U.S. citizen parent or parents to children born outside of the United States.

Who May Qualify for Acquisition of Citizenship

The law in effect at the time of birth determines whether someone born outside the United States to a U.S. citizen parent or parents is a U.S. citizen at birth. In general, these laws require that at least one parent was a U.S. citizen, and the U.S. citizen parent had lived in the United States for a period of time. In addition, children born abroad may become U.S. citizens after birth.

Definition of Child

In general, a child for citizenship and naturalization provisions is an unmarried person who is:

  • The genetic, legitimated, or adopted son or daughter of a U.S. citizen; or
  • The son or daughter of a non-genetic gestational U.S. citizen mother who is recognized by the relevant jurisdiction as the child’s legal parent.

Children of U.S. Citizens Residing in the United States

Children who were born outside the U.S. but now live in the U.S. may acquire citizenship. A child born outside of the United States automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when all of the following conditions have been met:

  • The child has at least one parent, including an adoptive parent, who is a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization;
  • The child is under 18 years of age;
  • The child is a lawful permanent resident; and
  • The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.

Children of U.S. Citizens Residing Outside the United States

Children residing outside of the United States may obtain citizenship. A child who regularly resides outside of the United States is eligible for naturalization if all of the following conditions have been met:

  • The child has at least one parent, including an adoptive parent, who is a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization;
  • The child’s U.S. citizen parent or U.S. citizen grandparent meets certain physical presence requirements in the United States or an outlying possession;
  • The child is under 18 years of age;
  • The child is residing outside of the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent, or of a person who does not object to the application if the U.S. citizen parent is deceased; and
  • The child is lawfully admitted, physically present, and maintaining a lawful status in the United States at the time the application is approved and the time of naturalization.

Naturalization Through Military Service

If you are serving or have served in the U.S. armed forces and are interested in becoming a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible to apply for naturalization under special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. As a member or veteran of the U.S. military, certain other naturalization requirements may not apply to you; for example, if you are currently active duty you may not have to reside in or be physically present in the U.S. for any length of time before you apply for naturalization. The requirements for naturalization are explained in greater detail below.

One Year of Military Service During Peacetime

If you served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least one year during a period of peacetime, you may be eligible to apply for naturalization. To establish eligibility, you must:

  • Have served honorably, during a period of peacetime, in the U.S. armed forces for a period or periods totaling one year;
  • Have submitted a completed Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service, at the time of filing the N-400 to demonstrate honorable service;
  • Be a lawful permanent resident at the time of your naturalization interview;
  • Meet certain residence and physical presence requirements;
  • Demonstrate the ability to read, write, and speak English;
  • Demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and government;
  • Demonstrate good moral character for at least five years before filing your N-400 through the day you naturalize; and
  • Demonstrate an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution.
Download The USCIS Guide to Citizenship

The Naturalization Process…

Once you meet all the qualification criteria, the first step to becoming a U.S. citizen is to file an Application for Naturalization using Form N-400 and pay the filing fee. You may fill out and mail a paper application or complete the application online at uscis.gov. If you file online, you must first create an online account with U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services (USCIS).

Filing Fee – $640

If you file your Form N-400 online, you may pay your fee online. If you file your Form N-400 by mail (paper), you may pay the fee with a money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or by credit card

If you’re applying based on your military service, from abroad, or for a fee reduction or waiver, you may not complete your application online. You must mail your application to the appropriate USCIS office.

The next step is your biometrics appointment. You are required to appear at an application support center for biometric capturing to submit fingerprints, photograph, and signature. USCIS will take your fingerprints during naturalization in order to complete a background check. The fingerprinting appointment usually takes place about a month after USCIS receives your U.S. citizenship application. If you are eligible for naturalization, the photograph taken may be used on your Certificate of Naturalization. Therefore, we recommend that on the day of your appointment, you dress in clothing that is acceptable for display on your Certificate of Naturalization.

The Interview
The citizenship interview is usually scheduled around 14 months after filing your application. Exactly how long it will take to process your naturalization application, however, depends heavily on the USCIS field office handling your case, which is assigned to you based on your ZIP code.

During this interview, a USCIS officer will verify that all of the information on your naturalization application is correct. The interview usually takes place at the nearest USCIS office. If you are applying from abroad, you will attend the interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are in active military duty, your interview may be held at a military facility.

The Civics Exam
The citizenship interview includes a civics test. The actual civics test is NOT a multiple choice test. During the naturalization interview, a USCIS officer will ask you up to 10 questions from the list of 100 questions in English. You must answer correctly 6 of the 10 questions to pass the civics test.

This is a two-part test. The first component, an English language test, will evaluate your written and spoken English skills. The second, a civics test, will assess your knowledge of U.S. history and basic information about how the U.S. government works.

USCIS provides study materials to help you prepare. You’ll also have two chances to take the tests per application: once during your interview and again at a later date to retake any portion that you didn’t pass the first time.

If you pass the interview and exam, the USCIS officer will approve your application at the end of the interview. If you do not pass, USCIS will send you a denial letter explaining why, but you may appeal their decision within 30 days of receiving the letter or reapply.

Once your application is approved, you may be able to participate in a naturalization ceremony on the same day as your interview. If a ceremony is unavailable, they will mail you a notice with the date, time, and location of your scheduled naturalization ceremony.

Return Your Permanent Resident Card
You must return your Permanent Resident Card to USCIS when you check in for your naturalization ceremony. You will no longer need your Permanent Resident Card because you will receive your Certificate of Naturalization after you take the Oath of Allegiance.

Take the Oath of Allegiance
You are not a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony. You will receive your Certificate of Naturalization after taking the Oath of Allegiance.

Certificate of Naturalization
Carefully review your Certificate of Naturalization and notify USCIS of any errors before leaving the ceremony. You may use your Certificate of Naturalization as official proof that you are a U.S. citizen.

Once you become a U.S. citizen, you can do the following:

Apply for a U.S. Passport
We strongly recommend that you apply for a U.S. passport through the U.S. Department of State soon after you take the Oath of Allegiance. In addition to your Certificate of Naturalization, a U.S. passport serves as official proof of citizenship. You will get an application for a U.S. passport at your naturalization ceremony in the U.S. Citizenship Welcome Packet. You will need to submit your original certificate of naturalization or citizenship AND a photocopy when applying for your U.S. passport.

Register to Vote
Voting in federal elections is both a right and a responsibility that comes with U.S. citizenship. After you take the Oath of Allegiance, you will have the opportunity to register to vote. At administrative naturalization ceremonies, forms may be distributed by a state or local government election office, a non-governmental organization, or a USCIS official.

Update your Social Security Record
After your naturalization ceremony, you should update your Social Security record at a local office of the Social Security Administration. Please wait at least ten days after your ceremony to ensure that data reflecting your naturalization has been updated. You will need your Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport when you visit the SSA to update your record.

U.S. Citizenship Questions? We Are Here to Help!

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