A legal permanent resident may contemplate becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen after meeting all the requirements under the law. Because of the increasing government’s scrutiny over individuals’ previous immigration applications, the naturalization process has become surprisingly complex for some. Thus, the decision to apply for naturalization should not be taken lightly as on one hand, a grant of U.S. citizenship carries new obligations and responsibilities, and on the other hand, one can also lose legal permanent residency status or worse be removed from the United Sates if past circumstances warrant such action.
To be eligible for naturalization, you must:
- Be over 18 years of age
- Have been a permanent resident of the U.S. for the past 5 years or 3 if married to a U.S. citizen and residing with that spouse
- Have resided in the District where intend to apply for at least 3 months
- Have continuously resided in the U.S. since becoming a Legal Permanent Resident
- Have been physically present in the U.S. for half the time during the past 5 years or 3 if married to a U.S. citizen and residing with that spouse
- For males, have registered for Selective Service between the age of 18 and 26 if required at the time
- Are not removable from the U.S.
- Are not statutorily ineligible for U.S. citizenship through naturalization due to lack of good moral character
You can also apply for naturalization if you:
- Have served in the U.S. Armed Forces during hostilities and have an honorable discharge
- Have served or are now serving in the U.S. Armed Forces for at least 1 year and have an honorable discharge and you file during your service or within 6 months of separation
- Are a person who performs ministerial or priestly functions for a religious denomination or an interdenominational organization with a valid presence in the U.S.
- Are an employee or individual under contract to the U.S. government
- Are an employee of an American Institution of research recognized by the Attorney General; of an American-owned firm or corporation engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce for the U.S.; of a public International Organization of which the U.S. is a member by law or treaty
- Are the spouse of one individual listed above and you will be following your spouse abroad if so employed for one year after the spouse naturalizes
Under certain circumstances, the physical presence, continuous residence and good moral character requirements may be waived or are less stringent for these categories of individuals listed above.
The application for naturalization will be filed with USCIS. Upon acceptance of the application for naturalization, one will have to take an English test (unless he or she qualifies for a Waiver) and a Civics test (unless he or she qualifies for Medical Disability Exception).
The English test aims at checking/verifying that the intending Citizen can read, write, and talk in the language. The Civics test regards basics of the Constitution, Government and American history.
Finally, after passing the English and Civics tests, to complete the Naturalization process, the Applicant must take the Oath of Allegiance in a public ceremony.
The principles embodied in the Oath are codified in Section 337(a) in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which provides that all applicants shall take an oath that incorporates the substance of the following:
1. Support the Constitution;
2. Renounce and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which the applicant was before a subject or citizen;
3. Support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;
4. Bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and
5. A. Bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; or
B. Perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; or
C. Perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.