Naturalization is the process by which an immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen.
An immigrant, according to U.S. immigration law, is someone who has the intention to be a permanent resident while a nonimmigrant is someone who is seeking to remain in the U.S. temporarily. Immigration and naturalization is a process that begins with obtaining a green card.
Lawful immigrants are immigrants who have a green card. A green card is the official document that proves lawful permanent residency. Most people become lawful permanent residents with the help of a U.S. family member or U.S. employer.
To be eligible for citizenship, most applicants are required tohave lived in the U.S. with permanent residency for at least five years.There are two cases when the five-year requirement does not apply:
- For applicants married to U.S. citizens, the requirement is permanent residency for at least three years.
- For applicants who are in the military, the requirement is permanent residency for at least one year.
There are more requirements for naturalization than just having had a green card for a certain period of time. The other citizenship requirements are:
- Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing the citizenship application
- Be of good moral character
- Have the ability to read, write and speak basic English
- Have a basic understanding of U.S. history and civics (government)
- Prove an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. constitution.
- Prove continuous residence during the five years immediately before filing the citizenship application. The requirement is three years for spouses of U.S. citizens. This Requirement does not apply to military servicemen applicants.
- Prove physical presence in the U.S. at least 30 months out of the five years immediately before filing the citizenship application. The requirement is 18 months for spouses of U.S. This requirement does not apply to military servicemen applicants.
- Demonstrate residency for at least 3 months in the state or USCIS district where submitting citizenship application
The naturalization process is completed through these steps:
- File Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
- Attend the biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment
- Attend interview (Includes citizenship test to determine if the applicant fulfills knowledge of Basic English and basic understanding of U.S. history and civics requirements.)
- Receive USCIS decision on application
- Attend naturalization ceremony (Includes swearing loyalty to the U.S. by saying the Oath of Allegiance.)