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U.S Citizenship

U.S. citizenship is an important honor and responsibility, whether acquired at birth or through the naturalization process. Citizenship signifies inclusion and participation in the national community and carries with it both rights and obligations. Citizenship is both a right and an obligation. It is bestowed upon persons born in the United States, persons born to U.S. citizens, and persons who pledge allegiance to the United States through the process of naturalization.

What Is Naturalization?

Naturalization is commonly referred to as the manner in which a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen.

Citizenship through Naturalization

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). In most cases, an applicant for naturalization must be a permanent resident (green card holder) before filing. Except for certain U.S. military members and their dependents, naturalization can only be granted in the United States.

You May Qualify for Naturalization if:

  • You have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements.
  • You have been a permanent resident for 3 years or less and meet all eligibility requirements to file as a pouse of a U.S. citizen.
  • You have qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces and meet all other eligibility requirements.
  • 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.

General Path to Citizenship

There are various naturalization provisions that allow permanent residents (green card holders) to become U.S. citizens. The most common of these provisions is section 316(a) of the INA which allows a person who has been a permanent resident for at least 5 years to apply for naturalization

To be eligible for naturalization under section 316(a) of the INA, an applicant must:

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for naturalization under section 316(a) of the INA, an applicant must:

  • Be 18 or older.
  • Be a permanent resident (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.
  • Have continuous residence in the United States as a permanent resident for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of the 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, 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.

Continuous Residence and Physical Presence Requirements for Naturalization

The law generally requires that applicants for naturalization must have resided continuously in the United States during a period of 5 years before applying (3 years in the case of qualified spouses of U.S. citizens). Applicants are also generally required to have been physically present in the United States for at least half of that required period of time.

Section 316 paragraphs (b), (c), and (f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act allow certain exceptions to the continuous residence requirement in the case of applicants who will be working abroad as employees of the United States government or its contractors, or of a recognized American institution of research, public international organization, or organization designated under the International Immunities Act. its contractors, or of a recognized American institution of research, public international organization, or organization designated under the International Immunities Act.

If you seek to preserve your continuous residence for naturalization purposes while employed abroad by one of these recognized institutions you must also file an Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes (Form N-470) with USCIS, except that qualified U.S. Government employees are exempt from the N-470 filing requirement.

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