To be eligible to apply for naturalization to become a United States citizen, a person must be at least 18 years of age, and must be lawfully admitted as a Permanent Resident.
Regular N-400 applicants for naturalization must meet all of these requirements-
- must have maintained continuous residence in the US for at least 5 years prior to filing the application;
- must have been physically present in the US for at least half that period;
- must have resided continuously in the same state for at least 3 months prior to filing the application; and
- must be a person of good moral character for the entire five-year period.
Each applicant for naturalization will be questioned in person under oath at an interview by an immigration officer, to determine if the applicant can demonstrate:
- a) Competency in written and spoken English;
- b) Knowledge of the fundamentals of U.S. history and government; and
- c) Attachment to the principles of the Constitution and to the good order and happiness of the United States.
There is a separate provision allowing application for naturalization after three years for lawful permanent residents who are married to, and living in marital union with, a U.S. citizen spouse. In this scenario, all the timing requirements are adjusted proportionally to a three-year period, except residence in the same state for at least three months before filing. An applicant must document that he or she has been living in marital union with the U.S. citizen spouse continuously for the entire three years.
There are separate eligibility rules and filing requirements for active duty U.S. military personnel
who have served honorably for a year or more, and for military veterans who served honorably for five years or more in a designated period of conflict.
There are also separate rules for spouses of U.S. citizens regularly stationed abroad in the employment of the U.S. government or a U.S. company or research institution, who live abroad with the citizen spouse.
All types of applicants for naturalization must demonstrate good moral character.
Your whole immigration history is reviewed when you apply for naturalization. Here are a few common red flags indicating that you should consult an immigration attorney before filing:
- a) any misstatements or omissions during the green card process, no matter how long ago;
- b) any lengthy absences from the United States, including use of a Re-Entry Permit, having a primary residence abroad, or taking a job abroad;
- c) any arrest history;
- d) filing of U.S. income tax returns as a non-resident, or failure to file tax returns;
- e) failure to pay child support;
- f) failure of male applicants to register for Selective Service if they were in the US between age 18 and 25;
- g) voting, registering to vote, or any false claims to US citizenship - such as on Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification, for an employer.