Can I Become a U.S. Citizen?
You can become a U.S. citizen either by birth or through naturalization—the process undergone by persons not born in the United States who wish to become U.S. citizens. Immigrants who wish to undergo the naturalization process and receive U.S. citizenship must file an N-400 Application.
However, individuals who wish to undergo the naturalization process and become citizens must also meet a number of eligibility requirements in order to file the N-400 application. First of all, applicants must be permanent residents (green card holders) who are at least 18 years of age.
Under normal circumstances, applicants must have lived in the United States for a continuous five-year period before filing the N-400 application. This five-year period begins after being admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident.
Individuals who are married to U.S. citizens only need a three-year period of continuous residency before being eligible to file their application. This three-year period begins after being admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident, but the applicant is expected to have been living with his or her spouse during the period of residency.
A prolonged absence from the United States will break the continuity of an applicant’s residence in the U.S. for naturalization purposes, but it may not affect whether the applicant can return to the U.S. as a permanent resident.
Continuity of residence is considered to have been maintained during absences of periods less than six months, but an absence lasting six months or more will break an applicant’s continuity of residence.
Applicants who are absent for more than six months but less than a year may retain their continuity of residence if a reasonable explanation, such as overseas employment, can be given for their absence. For longer periods, applicants may still have the absence excused and preserve their continuity of residence if they meet certain qualifications and take steps to preserve the continuity of residence before a full year abroad has elapsed.
In addition to residing in the U.S., applicants must remain in their state or USCIS district for at least three months prior to submitting their application in order to meet physical presence requirements.
Individuals applying to become citizens of the United States must not have broken any immigration law and cannot have been previously ordered to leave the U.S. Applicants will also need to prove at least five years’ worth of good moral character.
Applicants are required to take an English language and civics test, and they must establish (to the satisfaction of the interviewing officer) that they are able to read, write, and speak basic English in addition to possessing basic knowledge of U.S. history and government. Exemptions are available for individuals who have medically determinable physical or mental impairments that affect their ability to learn English and civics.
In addition to meeting the requirements above, applicants should be prepared to take an oath of allegiance to the US.