Naturalization is the process how immigrants become citizens of the United States. If you wish to apply for naturalization, you should use the “Application for Naturalization” (Form N-400). If you want to apply for citizenship for a child who is under 18 years old, you should use the “Application for Certificate of Citizenship” (Form N-600) or “Application for Citizenship and Issuance of a Certificate under Section 322” (Form N-600K).
This post describes the most common path to U.S. citizenship, which allows a green card holder (permanent resident) of at least 5 years to apply for naturalization:
If you are a green card holder of at least 5 years, you must meet the following requirements in order to apply for naturalization:
- Be 18 or older at the time of filing.
- Be a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
- 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. Students may apply for naturalization either where they go to school or where their family lives (if they are still financially dependent on their parents).
- Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding 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).
- Be a person of good moral character (See Below), attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law.
Important Information for Military Personnel
If you are applying for naturalization based on your own service in the Armed Forces of the United States, you may be eligible to apply under special provisions provided for in the Immigration and Nationality Act. For more information, request “Naturalization Information for Military Personnel” (Form M-599) from the USCIS Forms Line at 1-800-870-3676.
Examples of Things that Might Demonstrate a Lack of Good Moral Character:
- Any crime against a person with intent to harm.
- Any crime against property or the Government that involves “fraud” or evil intent.
- Two or more crimes for which the aggregate sentence was 5 years or more.
- Violating any controlled substance law of the United States, any State, or any foreign country.
- Habitual drunkenness.
- Illegal gambling.
- Polygamy (marriage to more than one person at the same time).
- Lying to gain immigration benefits.
- Failing to pay court-ordered child support or alimony payments.
- Confinement in jail, prison, or similar institution for which the total confinement was 180 days or more during the past 5 years (or 3 years if you are applying based on your marriage to a United States citizen).
- Failing to complete any probation, parole, or suspended sentence before you apply for naturalization.
- Terrorist acts.
- Persecution of anyone because of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group.