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You can obtain citizenship in the United States through birth in the
U.S., birth to U.S. Citizen parents, naturalization, or through the
naturalization of parents. We are specifically concerned here with
issues of naturalization. In order to obtain citizenship in the
United States through naturalization, it is first necessary to
obtain permanent residency. Permanent residents are not required to
become U.S. Citizens, but may choose to become naturalized U.S.
citizens if they meet certain requirements.

The requirements for naturalization (citizenship) include the
following: Individuals must maintain Permanent Residency for five
years (three years for the spouses of U.S. citizens) and continuous
residence to the date of naturalization and intent to reside
permanently in the U.S.; Maintain physical presence in the U.S. for
a minimum of thirty (30) months during the five years prior to the
submission of the application for naturalization (eighteen months
for spouses of U.S. citizens) without a continuous absence of one
year or more (unless a Reentry Permit is applied for and approved by
USCIS); Must have a basic knowledge and understanding of the history
and government of the United States; Establish good moral character
and support of the principles of the U.S. constitution. The
individual must also be willing to take the full oath of allegiance
to the United States.

There are exceptions to the above listed requirements, including the following:

The ability to read, speak and write English is not required of four classes of applicants:

  • Individuals who are physically unable to comply because of a disability;
  • Individuals who are unable to comply because of a developmental disability or mental impairment;
  • Individuals over fifty years of age who have lived in the United States for twenty years as Permanent Residents; and
  • Individuals over fifty-five years of age who have lived in the United States for fifteen years since becoming Permanent Residents.

The "Child Citizenship Act of 2000", effective February 27, 2001, streamlines the process by which foreign-born children of U.S. citizen parents can become U.S. citizens when they did not acquire citizenship at birth. The child acquires U.S. citizenship automatically without the need to apply for either a passport or a Certificate of Citizenship. The Act, which applies to both adopted and biological children of U.S. citizens, provides for the automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship when certain conditions have been met.

Matter of Rodriguez-Tejedor, 23 I&N Dec. 153 (BIA 2001) ID 3454: (1)
The automatic citizenship provisions of section 320 of the
Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1431 (1994), as amended
by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-395, 114 Stat.
1631 ("CCA"), are not retroactive and, consequently, do not apply to
an individual who resided in the United States with his United
States citizen parents as a lawful permanent resident while under
the age of 18 years, but who was over the age of 18 years on the CCA
effective date
. (2) The respondent, who resided in the United States
with his United States citizen adoptive parents as a lawful
permanent resident while under the age of 18 years, but who was over
the age of 18 years on the CCA effective date, is ineligible for
automatic citizenship under section 320 of the Act.

How can I become a United States citizen?

A person may become a U.S. citizen (1) by birth or (2) through naturalization.

Who is born a United States citizen?

Generally, people are born U.S. citizens if they are born in the United States or if they are born to U.S. citizens:

(1) By being born in the United States. If you were born in the United States (including, in most cases, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), you are an American citizen at birth (unless you were born to a foreign diplomat). Your birth certificate is proof of your citizenship.

(2) Through birth abroad to TWO United States citizens. In most cases, you are a U.S. citizen if ALL of the following are true: Both your parents were U.S. citizens when you were born; and At least one of your parents lived in the United States at some point in their life. Your record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy,is proof of your citizenship.

You may also apply for a passport to have your citizenship recognized. If you need additional proof of your citizenship, you may file an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) with USCIS to get a Certificate of Citizenship. Call the USCIS Forms Line at 1-800-870-3676 to request a Form N-600.

(3) Through birth abroad to ONE United States citizen. In most cases, you are a U.S. citizen if ALL of the following are true: One of your parents was a U.S. citizen when you were born; Your citizen parent lived at least 5 years in the United States before you were born; and At least 2 of these 5 years in the United States were after your citizen parent's 14th birthday. Your record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy,is proof of your citizenship. You may also apply for a passport to have your citizenship recognized. If you need additional proof of your citizenship, you may file an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600)with USCIS to get a Certificate of Citizenship.If you were born before November 14, 1986, you are a citizen if your U.S. citizen parent lived in the United States for at least 10 years and 5 of those years in the United States were after your citizen parent's 14th birthday.

How do I become a naturalized citizen?

If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth, you may be eligible to become a citizen through naturalization. People who are 18 years and older use the "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400) to become naturalized. Children who are deriving citizenship from naturalized parents use the "Application for a Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) to become naturalized. Call the USCIS Forms Line at 1-800-870-3676 to request a Form N-600.

What are the requirements for naturalization? (click on question for pdf file)

When does my time as a Permanent Resident begin?

Your time as a Permanent Resident begins on the date you were granted permanent resident status. This date is on your Permanent Resident Card (formerly known as Alien Registration Card).

What form do I use to file for naturalization?

You should use an "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400). Call the USCIS Forms Line at 1-800-870-3676 to request a Form N-400, or download it by clicking on the USCIS Website.

If I have been convicted of a crime but my record has been expunged, do I need to indicate that on my application or tell an USCIS officer?

Yes. You should always be honest with USCIS regarding all: arrests; convictions (even if they have been expunged); and crimes you have committed for which you were not arrested or convicted. Even if you have committed a minor crime, USCIS may deny your application if you do not tell the USCIS officer about the incident.

What is Good Moral Character? : An applicant for naturalization must establish that he or she is a person of good moral character (GMC). Although good moral character is not specifically defined, it has been interpreted to mean a person's adherence to the moral standards of the average citizen in the community in which the applicant resides. Click on link for a checklist of some of the crimes or offenses that fall under the Crimes involving moral character (CIMT) category. This checklist is designed to provide a quick reference to the types of offenses which the Board of Immigration Appeals has found to be "Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude."

Factors in Determining Good Moral Character: Is testimony that is false due to a misunderstanding and incorrect advice sufficient to deny citizenship for lack of good moral character, or did Congress intend to deny citizenship only in those USCIStances where an applicant shows an intent to deceive the USCIS officer in order to gain citizenship?

Go to : KRYSTYNA PLEWA, Plaintiff, vs. IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE and DORIS MEISSNER, Commissioner, IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE, Defendant. No. 99 C 302 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS, EASTERN DIVISION 77 F. Supp. 2d 905; 1999

Where do I file my naturalization application?

You should send your completed "Application for Naturalization" (Form N-400) to the appropriate USCIS Service Center.

DO NOT send original documents with your application unless the checklist on page 34 states that an original is required.

Will USCIS provide special accommodations for me if I am disabled?

Some people with disabilities need special consideration during the naturalization process. USCIS will make every effort to make reasonable accommodations in these cases. For example, if you use a wheelchair, we will make sure your fingerprint location is wheelchair accessible. If you are hearing impaired and wish to bring a sign language interpreter to your interview, you may do so.

How long will it take to become naturalized?

The time it takes to be naturalized varies from one local office to another. In 1997, in many places, it took over 2 years to process an application. USCIS is currently modernizing and improving the naturalization process. Within the next 2 years, USCIS would like to decrease the time it takes to become naturalized to 6 months.

Where can I be fingerprinted?

After USCIS has received your application, they will notify you of the location where you should get fingerprinted.

What if I cannot make it to my scheduled interview?

It is very important not to miss your interview. If you have to miss your interview, you should notify the office where your interview is scheduled by mail as soon as possible. In your letter, you should ask to have your interview rescheduled. Rescheduling an interview may add several months to the naturalization process, so try not to change your original interview date. If you miss your scheduled interview without notifying USCIS, they will "administratively close" your case. Unless you contact USCIS to schedule a new interview within 1 year after USCIS closes your case, they will deny your application. USCIS will not notify you if it closes your case because you missed your interview.

What do I do if my address has changed?

If your address changes, you should call the USCIS Forms Line (1-800-870-3676) and request an "Alien's Change of Address Card" (Form AR-11). Complete this form and send it back to USCIS. This form is pre-printed with the USCIS address on it. It is important to make sure USCIS has your latest address. If USCIS does not have a current address for you, you may not receive important information. For example, USCIS may not be able to notify you of your interview date and time. USCIS also may not be able to tell you if you need to send or bring additional documents to your interview. Eventually, USCIS hopes you will be able to change your address through the USCIS Telephone Center.

If USCIS grants me naturalization, when will I become a citizen?

You become a citizen as soon as you take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. In some places, you can choose to take the Oath the same day as your interview. If that option is not available or if you prefer a ceremony at a later date, USCIS will notify you of the ceremony date with a "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" (Form N-445).

What should I do if I cannot go to my oath ceremony?

If you cannot go to the oath ceremony, you should return the "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" (Form N-445) that USCIS sent to you. You should send the N-445 back to your local office. Include a letter saying why you cannot go to the ceremony. Make a copy of the notice and your letter before you send them to USCIS. Your local office will reschedule you and send you a new "Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony" (Form N-445) to tell you when your ceremony will be.

What can I do if USCIS denies my application?

There is an administrative review process for those who are denied naturalization. If you feel that you have been wrongly denied naturalization, you may request a hearing with an immigration officer. Your denial letter will explain how to request a hearing and will include the form you need. The form for filing an appeal is the "Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings under Section 336 of the Act" (Form N-336).

Can I reapply for naturalization if USCIS denies my application?

In many cases, you may reapply.

If you reapply, you will need to complete and resubmit a new N-400 and pay the fee again. You will also need to have your fingerprints and photographs taken again. If your application is denied, the denial letter should indicate the date you may reapply for citizenship. If you are denied because you failed the English or civics test, you may reapply for naturalization as soon as you want. You should reapply whenever you believe you have learned enough English or civics to pass the test.

What do I do if I have lost my Certificate of Naturalization? What do I use as proof of citizenship if I do not have my certificate?

You may get a new Certificate of Naturalization by submitting an "Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document" (Form N-565) to USCIS. You may obtain an N-565 by calling the USCIS Forms Line (1-800-870-3676). Submit this form with the fee to your local USCIS office. It may take up to 1 year for you to receive a new certificate. If you have one, you may use your passport as evidence of citizenship while you wait for a replacement certificate.

Do I need to obtain a new Permanent Resident Card (formerly known as an Alien Registration Card) when USCIS issues a new version of the card?

No, you only need to renew your Permanent Resident Card when it expires.

If I am naturalized, is my child a citizen?

Usually if children are Permanent Residents, they can derive citizenship from their naturalized parents. This is true whether the child is a child by birth or adoption.* In most cases, your child is a citizen if ALL of the following are true: The other parent is also naturalized OR You are the only surviving parent (if the other parent is dead) OR You have legal custody (if you and the other parent are legally separated or divorced); The child was under 18 when the parent(s) naturalized; The child was not married when the parent(s) naturalized; and The child was a Permanent Resident before his or her 18th birthday. If you and your child meet all of these requirements, you may obtain a passport for the child as evidence of citizenship. If the child needs further evidence of citizenship, you may submit an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600) to USCIS to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship. (Note: the child may obtain a passport or Certificate of Citizenship at any time, even after he or she turns 18.) All adoptions must be completed by the child's 16th birthday in order for the child to be eligible for any immigration benefit, including naturalization.

If I am naturalized but the above situation does not apply to me or my child, how can I apply for citizenship for my child?

In many cases, citizens may apply for citizenship for their children: (1) Children by birth or adoption who are Permanent Residents If both parents are alive and still married to each other, but only one parent is a citizen, you may apply for citizenship for your child using an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600). The child must meet ALL of the following requirements at the time he or she takes the Oath of Allegiance (Note: the Oath may be waived if the child is too young to understand it): The child is under 18; AND The child is not married; AND The Child is a Permanent Resident; AND The child is in legal custody of the parent who is a citizen. (2) Children by birth or adoption who are NOT Permanent Residents If at least one of the child's parents is a citizen, the parent may apply for citizenship for the child using an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600). The child must meet ALL of the following requirements at the time he or she takes the Oath of Allegiance.

Note: the Oath may be waived if the child is too young to understand it): The child is under 18; and The child is not married; and The child is lawfully present in the United States in a non-resident status (e.g., with a B-2 or F-1 visa); and The child is in legal custody of the parent who is a citizen; The citizen parent has lived at least 5 years in the United States and at least 2 of these 5 years in the United States were after the citizen parent's 14th birthday. In some cases, a child may have a parent who is a U.S. citizen but who has not lived in the United States for at least 5 years, 2 of which were after the citizen parent's 14th birthday.

In these cases, the U.S. citizen parent may apply for citizenship for the child using an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (Form N-600). The child must meet ALL of the following requirements at the time he or she takes the Oath of Allegiance (Note: the Oath may be waived if the child is too young to understand it): The child is under 18; The child is not married; The child is lawfully present in the United States in a non-resident status (e.g., with a B-2 or F-1 visa); A U.S. citizen parent has a parent (the child's grandparent) who is also a U.S. citizen; The child is in legal custody of the U.S. citizen parent whose parent is also a U.S. citizen; The U.S. citizen grandparent lived at least 5 years in the United States; and At least two of these years in the United States were after the citizen grandparent's 14th birthday.

How do I register register with selective services?

Selective Service registration allows the United States Government to maintain a list of names of men who may be called into military service in case of a national emergency requiring rapid expansion of the U.S. Armed Forces. By registering all young men, the Selective Service can ensure that any future draft will be fair and equitable. Federal law requires that men who are at least 18 years old, but not yet 26 years old, must be registered with Selective Service. This includes all male non-citizens within these age limits who permanently reside in the United States. Men with "green cards" (lawful permanent residents) must register. Men living in the United States without USCIS documentation (undocumented aliens) must also register. But men cannot register after reaching age 26.

Why Do I Need to Register with the Selective Service?

Failure to register for the Selective Service may (in certain USCIStances) make you ineligible for certain immigration benefits, such as citizenship. For USCIStructions on registering with Selective Service as an immigrant, please see the Selective Service System's "Check a Registration" Webpage.

WHO MUST REGISTER: If you are an immigrant male (documented or undocumented) living in the United States, age 18 through 25, you are required to register.

If you would like answers to frequently asked questions about Selective Service, please see Selective Service System's "Frequently Asked Questions" Webpage.

ALIENS ** REQUIRED TO REGISTER?
Lawful non-immigrants on visas (e.g., diplomatic and consular personnel and families, foreign students, tourists with unexpired visas (Forms I-94, I-95A), or those with Border Crossing Documents (Forms I-185, I-186, I-444). No
Permanent resident aliens. Yes
Special (seasonal) agricultural workers (Form I-688). Yes
Special agricultural workers (Form I-688A). No
Refugee, parolee, and asylee aliens. Yes
Undocumented (illegal) aliens. Yes

**NOTE: Immigrants who did not enter the United States or maintained their lawful non-immigrant status by continually remaining on a valid visa until after they were 26 years old were never required to register. Also, immigrants born before 1960 who did not enter the United States or maintained their lawful non-immigrant status by continually remaining on a valid visa until after March 29, 1975 were never required to register.

Download N-400 Instructions (121KB PDF)
Download N-400 (670KB PDF)

Photograph Standards (67KB PDF)
Sample Sentences for Written English Testing
Civics and Citizenship Study Materials
Sample U.S. History and Government Questions (English Version) (169KB PDF)
Study questions for naturalization test preparation

 

 

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Updated: Monday April 6, 2009
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