United States citizenship can be mainly acquired by birth in the U.S. or through naturalization. Foreign nationals who become U.S. citizens may vote in federal, state and local elections, be employed by the U.S. government, and sponsor family members to become permanent residents faster than if they were permanent residents.

To be eligible for U.S. citizenship through naturalization, a foreign national must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be at least 18 years old;
  • Must have had permanent resident status (green card) for at least 5 years. If married to a U.S. citizen, the residency requirement is 3 years.
  • Must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one half of the five years or one half of the three years if married to a U.S. citizen;
  • Must have resided in the state in which the petition is filed for at least three months;
  • Must not be absent from the U.S. for a continuous period of more than one year during the periods for which continued residence is required;
  • Must be functionally fluent in spoken and written English, and be able to pass a test showing that he/she understands the fundamentals of U.S. history and system of government;
  • Must have good moral character; and
  • Must be willing to take an oath of allegiance to the United States.

Foreign nationals who served in the U.S. army during certain periods of war may be eligible for naturalization without meeting all the above listed requirements. Also, foreign children who are under the age of 18 may become U.S. citizens automatically if one or both of their parents are naturalized citizens.

The USCIS may deny an application for naturalization if it is determined that the applicant has been convicted of, or committed certain crimes; failed to file income tax returns; did not register for Selected Service; is an alcoholic; had children out of wedlock or committed adultery; failed to pay child support; etc. Therefore, it is very important for individuals with the aforementioned problems to consult with an experienced immigration attorney before filing for naturalization.

DISCLAIMER: The information given in this website is intended as general information only and is not a substitute for the services of an immigration attorney in your specific case.