In order to qualify for citizenship in the United States through naturalization, you must meet the following requirements:
Be a permanent resident of the U.S. (have a green card) Exception: Honorable service in active duty status in the U.S. military during a time of war if in the U.S. at the time of induction or enlistment.
- Have continuous residence (not physical presence) in the United States for at least five years immediately preceding the filing of the application.
Exception: The requirement is only three (3) years if you are married to a U.S. citizen.
Maintain a residence of at least (3) months immediately preceding the filing of the naturalization in the state in which the petition is filed. The requirement is met concurrently with the above residency requirement.
Have been physically present in the U.S. for an aggregate total of at least one half of the required period of the qualifying continuous residence. This translates to two and a half years or one and a half years for qualifying spouse of a U.S. Citizen. You must account for every absence from the U.S. with the exact starting and termination date for each trip. There are a limited number of exceptions to this requirement.
Have the ability to read, write and speak ordinary English. Exceptions: Those who are physically unable to comply because of a disability such as blindness, deafness, etc.; those who are over fifty (50) Years old on the date of filing for naturalization and have lived in the U.S. for a total of at least twenty (20) years after becoming a permanent resident; those who are over fifty-five (55) years old and have been a permanent resident living in the U.S. for at least fifteen (15) years.
Have knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the U.S. history and government. This is determined by passing a test of basic knowledge administered at the time of your naturalization interview.
Have good moral character and commitment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution. This is interpreted to include the following: filing all required tax returns, paying court ordered child support, registering for selective service and having committed no criminal offenses.
- Be eighteen (18) years old at the time of filing. Exception: Certain children who are naturalized with their parents and certain spouses of U.S. citizen.
The application for naturalization can be filed up to three (3) months before you meet the residence requirements described above. The application is filed with the DHS Regional Service Center. The Service Center will review the application and then send your case to the local DHS office for further processing.
Shortly after you receive a receipt, you will receive an appointment to have your fingerprints/biometrics taken. Thereafter, you will be notified when and where your interview will take place. At the examination interview, the DHS examiner will:
- Go over the application in detail and ask questions regarding any problem areas.
Test your ability to speak and write English, usually through conversation and sometimes through asking you to write a few sentences.
- Test your knowledge of U.S. government and history through the use of standard questions. The civics test is an oral test and the USCIS Officer will ask you up to 10 of the 100 civics questions. You must answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test. You will also be evaluated on your ability to speak, read, write, and understand English at your interview.
If there is a problem with either the English or government and history portions of the application, you will be scheduled to return for another examination within 120 days. If there are any questions regarding any of your answers on the application form, additional documentation may be required. If the examiner is satisfied that you have met all of the naturalization requirements, the application will be approved.
When the application is approved, you will be scheduled for a Naturalization Oath Ceremony. You may elect to legally change your name at the time of naturalization.
In the ceremony, you will take an oath of allegiance to the United States. The oath is as follows:
- “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”