Who qualifies and when to apply

The final step an immigrant can take is becoming naturalized as a U.S. citizen. This step is the ultimate goal for many immigrants and represents the culmination of many years of hard work and effort put into maintaining the proper immigration status as well as demonstrating good moral character.

First, a permanent resident must determine whether he is eligible to become naturalized. Usually to qualify for naturalization a person must meet the following requirements:

·                     Be 18 or older at the time of filing.

·                     Be a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the Application for Naturalization (at least 3 years if filing as a spouse of a U.S. citizen who is still married).

·              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 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) – exception can be made for elderly and people with certain medical conditions

·                     Be a person of good moral character.


Once you know you are legally able to become a citizen, the application process begins with filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Then, a biometric screening for collecting fingerprints, signature, and photos to confirm and document identity takes place and finally, an interview with an immigration officer is scheduled. During the interview the officer verifies the person’s ability to speak and read English and knowledge of the basic facts about the United States. Those are referred to as the English language and civics tests. If the applicant is of elderly age or has a medical condition that prevents him/her from learning, he/she may be exempted from taking the tests.


After the interviews, forms and necessary testing are completed, the applicants will receive a decision on their N-400 application from USCIS. Their application can be granted, denied or continued, meaning that additional evidence or documentation is required, mistakes were made on the initial application or the candidate failed the English or civics test.

More in this category: « When do I get sworn in?

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