What are the requirements to become a naturalized US citizen?

U.S. Citizenship is obtained either by birth or naturalization. A foreign national may become a U.S. citizen either through his or her parents, or by applying for naturalization on his or her own. There are a number of reasons and benefits to becoming a U.S. citizen, such as the ability to petition for your family members, obtaining government benefits, federal grants and scholarships, higher estate tax exemptions, federal job benefits, greater freedom of travel and the right to vote.

Generally, to be eligible for naturalization, an applicant must:

  • Be 18 or older;

  • Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 5 years prior to the date of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization;
  • For spouses of US citizen, the residence requirement is reduced to 3 years;
  • Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application;
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application;
  • Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization;
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics); and,
  • Be a person of good moral character, and attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States.

Spouses of U.S. Citizens Employed Abroad
In most cases, the spouse of a U.S. citizen who is employed abroad by the U.S. government, including the military, and who is stationed abroad in such employment for at least 1 year, may be eligible for naturalization.

However, the spouse of a U.S. citizen employed abroad must be in the United States at the time of naturalization interview and naturalization ceremony. He or she must and meet of all of the requirements listed above except that there is no specific continuous residence or physical presence is required.

Derivative Citizenship
A foreign national may already be a U.S. citizen and not need to apply for naturalization if his or her biological or adoptive parent(s) became a U.S. citizen before he or she reached the age of 18. A child residing in the U.S. automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when all of the following conditions have been met:

  • At least one parent of the child is a U.S. citizen;
  • The child is under the age of 18 years; and.
  • The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent based on a lawful admission for permanent residence.

If residing overseas, a child becomes a U.S. citizen when all of the following conditions have been met:

  • At least one parent is a U.S. citizen or, if deceased, the parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of death;
  • The U.S. citizen parent or his or her U.S. citizen parent has (or at the time of death had) been physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for at least 5 years, and at least two of which were after attaining the age of 14;
  • The child is under the age of 18 years;
  • The child is residing outside of the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent; and,
  • The child is temporarily present in the United States in lawful status.

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