How to become a U.S. Citizen: Understanding Naturalization Requirements

Posted by Donald GrossJul 10, 20240 Comments

Citizenship through Naturalization: Naturalization is the most common pathway to US citizenship for immigrants who are not eligible for citizenship through birth or descent. To be eligible for naturalization, applicants must meet specific requirements, including:

  • Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card) Status: Applicants must have lawful permanent residence (LPR) status for at least five years, with exceptions for spouses of US citizens (three years) and certain military service members. Please note that naturalization applicants may file their applications 90 days before they have satisfied the “continuous residence” requirement.

  • Continuous Residence: Applicants must maintain continuous residence in the United States, with limited trips abroad. If you are planning on leaving the United States for one year or more you should file a Form N-470 “Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes”.

  • District or State Residence: Applicants must have resided in the district or state in which they are applying for citizenship for at least the last three months.

  • Good Moral Character: Applicants must demonstrate good moral character through factors such as criminal history, tax compliance, and financial responsibility.

  • Proficiency in English and Knowledge of US History and Government: Applicants must undergo an interview and examination to assess their English proficiency and knowledge of US civics, with exemptions granted to applicants over 50 or 55 years of age under specific conditions, as well as those with disabilities.

  • Oath of Allegiance: Applicants must affirm their willingness to support and defend the principles of the US Constitution through the Oath of Allegiance.

Citizenship through Marriage: Spouses of US citizens may be eligible for naturalization after being lawful permanent residents for three years, instead of the standard five years.

To qualify, the applicants must have a Bona Fide Marital relationship - The marriage must be genuine and ongoing. There must be a marital union: Applicants must have lived in marital union with their US citizen spouse for the entire three-year period preceding the naturalization application, with certain exceptions for employment abroad or other legitimate reasons. Applicants must continue to meet all other naturalization requirements, including continuous residence, physical presence, good moral character, and proficiency in English and civics.

Steps to Follow:

  1. Determine Eligibility: Review the requirements to ensure you qualify for naturalization - please see section above.

  2. Prepare Form N-400: Complete the Application for Naturalization (Form N-400). Consider seeking the assistance of a US attorney to ensure the application is filled out correctly.

  3. Gather Required Documents: Collect all necessary documents, including (this is not an exhaustive list):

    • Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)

    • Evidence of marital relationship if applicable (e.g., marriage certificate, joint financial records) if applicable. 

    • Proof of continuous residence and physical presence (e.g., rental agreements, utility bills, passport showing entry and exit stamps)

    • Documents proving good moral character (e.g., tax returns, criminal records, if applicable)

    • Two passport-sized photographs

  4. Submit Application: Send your completed Form N-400, along with the required documents and filing fee, to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox facility or online.

  5. Biometrics Appointment: Attend a biometrics appointment, if applicable, to provide fingerprints, photographs, and signatures for background checks.

  6. Attend Interview: Participate in an interview with a USCIS officer, where you will be tested on your English proficiency and knowledge of US civics.

  7. Receive Decision: Await the decision on your application. If approved, you will receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance.

  8. Take the Oath of Allegiance: Attend the naturalization ceremony, where you will take the Oath of Allegiance and receive your Certificate of Naturalization.

Preparing for the Naturalization Exam: USCIS provides free study materials, including the 100 civics questions and answers, reading and writing vocabulary lists, and practice tests. These can be found on the USCIS website.

At Donald Gross Law Group, we specialize in guiding individuals through every step of the naturalization process, including marriage-based cases. Our experienced US attorneys are dedicated to helping clients achieve their American dream by providing expert legal support and ensuring compliance with all immigration laws.