Naturalization and Citizenship
What is naturalization?
Naturalization is the process that enables foreign nationals to become citizens of the United States. The application process is administered by the INS. Either a federal court or the INS may administer the oath of citizenship, as you choose.
What are the benefits of U.S. citizenship?
- The right to vote.
- The right to leave the U.S. for extended periods of time.
- The ability to petition for spouses, children, and immediate relatives.
Who qualifies for naturalization?
Resident aliens who meet the following requirements:
- Lawful admission as a permanent resident.
- Continuous residence in the U.S. for at least 5 years immediately preceding filing for naturalization (3 years for spouses of U.S. citizens.)
- Residence for at least 3 months in the state where the application is filed.
- Physical presence within the U.S. for at least one half of the period required for continuous residence (2 and 1/2 years for resident aliens, 1 and 1/2 years for spouses of citizens.)
- Good moral character ( e.g. no criminal convictions, no willful failure or refusal to support dependents, no extramarital affair that tended to destroy an existing marriage).
- Continuous residence in the U.S. from the date of filing to the date of the oath of citizenship.
- Attainment of 18 years of age at the time of filing.
- Ability to read, write, and speak English. *
- Knowledge of U.S. history and government.*
Children of foreign nationals, war veterans, spouses of U.S. citizens, and permanent residents over the age of 50 may qualify for expedited procedures.**
What is the application process?
- An application for naturalization, along with other required documents and a filing fee, must be filed with the local INS office.
- Ordinarily, within 4-6 months the application is reviewed and an interview of the applicant is conducted.
- The INS conducts interviews to inquire into the application materials and to determine the applicant's proficiency in English and knowledge of U.S. history and government.*
- Upon a satisfactory interview, the applicant becomes eligible to take the oath of citizenship.
Can I keep my "home" citizenship if I become a U.S. Citizen?
Becoming a U.S. citizen may not preclude dual citizenship.**
*You may choose to meet this requirement by passing a standardized test administered by an INS-approved organization.
**These areas may involve legal complications. It may be advisable to consult an attorney or your "home" consulate.
RO 9/95 DG 4/99 NZ/KC 8/01
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