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Citizenship Through Naturalization

1.       Citizenship Through Naturalization

a.       Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

b.       For more information, see USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

2.       How to Apply for Naturalization

a.       To apply for naturalization, file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

b.       For more information, see our How Do I Apply for Citizenship? (PDF, 2.21 MB) guide. We also provide educational materials to help you prepare for the English, U.S. history and civics portions of the naturalization test, including:

                                                               i.      Naturalization Self Test

                                                             ii.      Study for the Naturalization Test

c.       For more test information visit our Naturalization Test page.

d.       If you are in the military and are interested in becoming a U.S. citizen, please see the M-599, Naturalization Information for Military (PDF, 671 KB) guide.

3.       You May Qualify for Naturalization if:

a.       You have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements, please visit our Path to Citizenship page for more information.

b.       You have been a permanent resident for 3 years or more and meet all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen, please visit our Naturalization for Spouses of U.S. Citizens page for more information.

c.       You have qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces and meet all other eligibility requirements. Visit the Military section of our website.

d.       Your child may qualify for naturalization if you are a U.S. citizen, the child was born outside the U.S., the child is currently residing outside the U.S., and all other eligibility requirements are met. Visit our Citizenship Through Parents page for more information.

4.       You may qualify through other paths to naturalization if you do not qualify through the paths described in the links to the left. See also the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance and our A Guide to Naturalization (PDF, 1.01 MB) guide. Chapter 4 of the guide discusses who is eligible for naturalization.

5.       Note: You may already be a U.S. citizen and not need to apply for naturalization if your biological or adoptive parent(s) became a U.S. citizen before you reached the age of 18. For more information, visit our Citizenship Through Parents page.

A Guide to Naturalization

1.       A Guide to Naturalization

a.       Recent changes in immigration law and USCIS procedures now make it easier for U.S. military personnel to naturalize, see the USCIS Policy Manual guidance on Military Members and their Families. Also see Naturalization Information for Military Personnel (PDF, 671 KB).    

b.       A Guide to Naturalization (M-476) provides information on  

  • The benefits and responsibilities of citizenship
  • An overview of the naturalization process
  • Eligibility requirements.

c.       To view the Guide, you must have the free Adobe Reader software installed on your computer.

1.       Continuous Residence and Physical Presence Requirements for Naturalization

a.       Continuous Residence

  • Applicants are required to show that they have:

1.       Resided continuously in the U.S. for five years before applying, (see legal basis), or

2.       Resided continuously in the U.S. for three years in the case of qualified spouses of U.S. citizens, (see legal basis

  • “Continuous residence” means that the applicant has maintained residence within the United States for the required period of time shown above.
  • Extended absences outside of the U.S. may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence.

1.       Absences of more than six months but less than one year may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence unless the applicant can prove otherwise, (see legal basissee policy manual)

2.       Absences in excess of one year (PDF, 667 KB) or more may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence, (see legal basissee policy manual)

b.       Physical Presence

  • Applicants are required to show that they were:

1.       Physically present in the U.S. for thirty months within the five year period before applying, or (see legal basis)

2.       Physically present in the U.S. for eighteen months within the three year period before applying in the case of qualified spouses of U.S. citizens (see legal basis)

  • In addition, applicants are required to show they have resided for at least three months immediately preceding the filing of Form N-400 in the USCIS district or state where the applicant claims to have residency (See 8 CFR §316.2(a)(5) & §319.1(a)(5)).

c.       Exceptions

1.       The United States government, including the Military

2.       Contractors of the United States government

3.       A recognized American institution of research (List of Recognized American Institutions of Research and Other Recognized Organizations (PDF, 104 KB))

4.       A public international organization

5.       An organization designated under the International Immunities Act

d.       For more details see:   

1.       Exceptions & Accommodations

a.       There are exceptions and modifications to the naturalization requirements that are available to those who qualify. USCIS also provides accommodations for individuals with disabilities.   

b.       For more information visit our A Guide to Naturalization page and the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

2.       English Language Exemptions

a.       You Are Exempt From The English Language Requirement, But Are Still Required To Take The Civics Test If You Are:

  i.      Age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident (green card holder) in the United States for 20 years   (commonly referred to as the “50/20” exception).
OR

 ii.      Age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years (commonly referred to as the “55/15” exception).

b.       Note:

  •   i.      Even if you qualify for the “50/20” or “55/15” English language exceptions listed above, you must still take the civics test.
  •   ii.      You will be permitted to take the civics test in your native language.
  •   iii.      If you take the test in your native language, you must bring an interpreter with you to your interview.
  •  iv.      Your interpreter must be fluent in both English and your native language.
  • v.      If you are age 65 or older and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing for naturalization, you will be given special consideration regarding the civics requirement.

c.       For more information, see the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

3.       Medical Disability Exceptions to English and Civics

a.       You may be eligible for an exception to the English and civics naturalization requirements if you are unable to comply with these requirements because of a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment.

b.       To request this exception, submit Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions. This form must be completed by a licensed medical or osteopathic doctor, or licensed clinical psychologist.

c.       For more information, see the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

4.       Continuous Residence Exceptions

a.       If you are engaged in certain kinds of overseas employment you may be eligible for an exception to the continuous residence requirement. For more information visit our Continuous Residence and Physical Presence Requirements for Naturalization page and the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.
.

5.       Disability Accommodations

a.       Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, we provide accommodations or modifications for applicants with physical or mental impairments that make it difficult for them to complete the naturalization process. Applicants are encouraged to list their needs in the space provided on Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

b.       For more information, see the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

6.       Oath of Allegiance

a.       After applying for naturalization and in order to be naturalized, you must take an oath of allegiance in a public ceremony. The law allows for certain modifications to the Oath of Allegiance.  For more information please see section 337 of the Immigration Nationality Act (INA) and 8 CFR 337.1(b) . Also see the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

1.       Naturalization for Spouses of U.S. Citizens

a.       In general, you may qualify for naturalization under Section 319(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) if you

  • i.      Have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years
  • ii.      Have been living in marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse during such time
  • iii.      Meet all other eligibility requirements under this section

b.       In certain cases, spouses of U.S. citizens employed abroad may qualify for naturalization regardless of their time as permanent residents. These spouses may qualify under Section 319(b) of the INA.  

c.       For more information, see USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

d.       For information relating to spouses of military members, see our Members of the Military and Their Families page. Also for information about becoming a permanent resident or petitioning for family members, please visit our Green Card or Family webpages.

2.       General Eligibility Requirements

a.       To be eligible for naturalization pursuant to section 319(a) of the INA, an applicant must:

  • i.      Be 18 or older
  • ii.      Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  • iii.      Have been living in marital union with the U.S. citizen spouse, who has been a U.S. citizen during all of such period, during the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application and up until examination on the application
  • iv.      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 offiling the application
  • v.      Have continuous residence in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • vi.      Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization until the time of naturalization
  • vii.      Be physically present in the United States for at least 18 months out of the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • viii.      Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (also known as civics)
  •  ix.      Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States duringall relevant periods under the law

b.        For more information, see USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

3.       Spouses of U.S. Citizens Employed Abroad

a.       Generally, the spouse of a U.S. citizen who is employed by the U.S. government, including the military, or other qualifying employer, whose spouse is scheduled to be stationed abroad in such employment for at least 1 year at the time of filing, may be eligible for naturalization under Section 319(b) of the INA.

b.       In general, a spouse of a U.S. citizen employed abroad must be present in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence at the time of examination on the naturalization application and at the time of naturalization, and  meet of all of the requirements listed above except that:

i.      No specific period as a permanent resident (green card holder) is required (but the spouse must be a permanent resident)

ii.      No specific period of continuous residence or physical presence in the United States is required

iii.      No specific period of marital union is required; however, the spouses must be in a valid marriage at the time of filing until the time of naturalization.

c.       Note: You must also establish that you will depart abroad immediately after naturalization and that you intend to reside in the United States immediately upon the termination of your spouse’s employment abroad.

d.       For more information, see USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

4.       For More Information…

a.       On naturalization requirements, see the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance and A Guide to Naturalization, Chapter 4, Who is Eligible for Naturalization? (PDF, 403 KB).

b.       Regarding exceptions and modifications to the naturalization requirements, visit the Exceptions and Accommodations.

c.       On how to apply for naturalization, visit the How Do I Apply for U.S. Citizenship page.  Also see the A Guide to Naturalization page and read the form instructions before applying.