Naturalization Requirements: The 9 Requirements to Become a U.S. Citizen

Naturalization Requirements

The process of naturalization allows permanent residents (green card holders) to receive U.S. citizenship.

 

In this guide, I will discuss the 9 main naturalization requirements.

 

If you have any questions about the naturalization process or if you are looking for a US immigration lawyer to assist you, you can contact me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. My team and I would be happy to help.

 

Overview:

 

1. Introduction to the Naturalization Process

 

2. Breakdown of the 9 Naturalization Requirements

 

  • Be at least 18 years old

 

  • Be a permanent resident for at least 5 (or 3 years in some cases)

 

  • Have resided for 3 months in current resident state or USCIS district

 

  • Have residence for five continuous years in the United States

 

  • Have been physically present in the US for 30 months of the previous 5 years

 

  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English

 

  • Have a basic understanding of US government and history

 

  • Have good moral character

 

  • Demonstrate respect for the principles and ideals of the US Constitution

 

3. Conclusion

 

1. Introduction to the Naturalization Process

 

The process of naturalization allows foreign nationals to receive US citizenship. If you have met all requirements discussed in this guide, you can submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Upon submitting, you must attend a biometrics appointment where your fingerprint and photo will be taken.

 

You will also have an interview with USCIS. Here, USCIS will determine if you have met all the requirements to become a US citizen. Finally, if you are approved, you will take an Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony where you will officially become a US citizen. US citizens have many rights and responsibilities, which means there are several requirements to be approved for naturalization. These requirements will be discussed in further detail below.

 

2. Breakdown of the 9 Main Naturalization Requirements

 

In order to be naturalized as a US citizen, there are nine main requirements:

 

  • You must be at least 18 years of age when you submit your Form N-400

 

  • You must have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years (or 3 years in some cases)

 

  • You must have resided for at least 3 months in the applicable state or USCIS district

 

  • You must have had resided for at least 5 continuous years in the United States

 

  • You must have been physically present in the US for at least 30 months in the previous five years

 

  • You must be able to read, write, and speak basic English

 

  • You must have a basic understanding of US government and history

 

  • You must have good moral character

 

  • You must demonstrate respect for the principles and ideals of the US Constitution

 

These requirements were established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Each will be discussed in more detail below.

 

Requirement 1. Be at least 18 years old

 

This first requirement to qualify for naturalization is that you must be at least 18 years old when you file your N-400. However, permanent resident minor children will automatically receive US citizenship when his/her parent completes the naturalization process.

 

Requirement 2. Be a permanent resident for at least 5 years

 

The second requirement to qualify for naturalization is that you must have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 5 years. You may submit your Form N-400 to USCIS 90 days before your 5-year green card anniversary.

 

There are some exceptions to this rule:

 

First, if you began your time in the US as a conditional resident, the two years spent in this status will count toward this 5-year requirement as long as you successfully became a permanent resident following your conditional resident period. Therefore, in this situation, spending two years as a conditional resident and 3 years as a permanent would be sufficient to satisfy this requirement.

 

Second, if you obtained your residency through marriage to a US Citizen or VAWA, you will only need to wait 3 years to apply for naturalization. You will need to remain married to your US citizen spouse until you are formally sworn in as a US citizen.

 

Additionally, if you received your green card through marriage and were in an abusive relationship, you can apply to receive US citizenship after 3 years. This law was made to ensure that people do not remain in abusive marriages in order to qualify for faster naturalization.

 

Requirement 3. Have resided for 3 months in the applicable state or USCIS district

 

The third requirement for naturalization is that you must have residence in the state (jurisdiction of the USCIS Center) to which you are applying for at least 3 months prior to filing. Please be aware that some USCIS centers have jurisdiction over multiple states and some states have multiple USCIS centers. If you spent at least 3 months in one location and then left the United States for a period of no longer than 1 year before returning to that same residence, you will be considered to have satisfied this requirement. However, if you move to a new residence following this time abroad, you will be required to spend at least 3 months in this new residence to meet this requirement.

 

There are some situations that should be noted as exceptions:

 

First, if you are a US soldier who served for more than one year, you can file at the location where you spent the previous 3 months prior to filing, in the location where your spouse and/or minor children live, or at the location noted in your military personnel file.

 

Second, students attending an institution in a different jurisdiction than their home residence may apply for naturalization at the USCIS center with jurisdiction over the institution or, provided their parents continue to provide financial support to them, at their home residence.

 

If you have residence in more than one state, the residence where you pay taxes will be considered your residence for your naturalization application.

 

Requirement 4. Have residence for five continuous years in the United States

 

The fourth requirement for naturalization is that you must have resided for five continuous years in the United States. This means that you must have maintained a residence, or a “permanent dwelling place” in the United States for the last five years. If you have not maintained a residence for a period of time longer than six months in the United States, during the previous 5 years, you will be considered to not have met this requirement.

 

Thus, you should not have any break in your residence longer than six months in the previous 5 years if you wish to apply for naturalization. Note that having a permanent resident card is not sufficient to meet this requirement. You must be able to prove that you actually took up permanent residence in the United States and did not only commute from a foreign country.

 

Some exceptions to this rule may apply. If you are able to show that during the break in maintaining a US residence, your immediate family continued to live in the United States, you continued to work in the United States and did not accept foreign employment and/or you continued to be able to access the residence despite not personally maintaining it, you may still be able to apply for naturalization.

 

Additionally, in some cases where you (or your spouse/parent) worked abroad employed by the US government, a US academic institution, a US company working to promote US foreign trade, or an international organization to which the US belongs, you may also be able to apply for naturalization, even if you did not maintain your US residence continuously.

 

Requirement 5. Have been physically present in the US for 30 months of the previous 5 years

 

The fifth requirement for naturalization is that you must have been physically present in the United States for half of the time continuous residence is required. Thus, for naturalization, you must have spent 30 months (913 days) in the United States. Both the day you exit the United States and the day you arrive back in the United States, if you leave the country, will be counted toward this 913 day requirement. Again, please note that simply having a permanent resident card is not enough evidence to satisfy this requirement. You must be able to prove physical presence in the US through documentation.

 

Requirement 6. Be able to read, write, and speak basic English

 

The sixth requirement for naturalization is that you must read, write, and speak basic English. This will be tested by an examination conducted by USCIS. You will be given two attempts to pass the test.

 

Some applicants of a certain age who have spent considerable time in the United States as a permanent resident will be exempt from this. If you are: (1) 50 or older and have spent at least 20 years as a permanent resident or (b) 55 years older, and have spent 15 years as a permanent resident, you will be exempt from the language test.

 

Additionally, if you qualify for a medical exemption (cognitive disability), you may be exempt from this language test.

 

Requirement 7. Have a basic understanding of US government and history

 

The seventh requirement for naturalization is that you must have a basic understanding of US government and history. This will be determined through a civics test. You will be given two tries to pass this test.

 

People who qualified for the exemption from the English test, as discussed in the previous section, will still be required to take the civics test. Yet, these individuals will be able to take it through an interpreter in their native language. Those over 65 who have had permanent residence in the United States for at least 20 years will take a modified civics test. Additionally, those with a medical (cognitive) disability may not be required to take the civics test.

 

Requirement 8. Have good moral character

 

The eighth requirement for naturalization is that you must have good moral character. This will be done by examining your record, your naturalization application, and your interview. Some factors that could cause your application to be rejected, due to a lack of good moral character, include an admission or finding of guilt in or out of formal trial proceeding of an inadmissible crime. Crimes committed in abroad are considered in determining good moral character.

 

Cases in which one attended a training or rehabilitation program instead of facing criminal trial, where one was tried as a minor, where no punishment was imposed, where some defect was found in the decision, and where the applicant was found guilty for political reasons will not count towards the good moral character consideration.

 

However, in cases where someone under 18 was tried and found guilty as an adult or where a court martial found you to be guilty will count against your good moral character consideration. Additionally, if your case was expunged, the conviction will still be considered.

 

You cannot be found to have good moral character while on probation. Yet, upon completion, if you can demonstrate rehabilitative change, you may be found to have good moral character. Some factors that may be considered in determining if one has good moral character could include family ties, criminal history, education, past employment, tax records, community involvement, and the length of time spent in the United States.

 

Requirement 9. Demonstrate respect for the principles and ideals of the US Constitution

 

The ninth requirement for naturalization is that you must demonstrate respect for the principles and ideals of the US Constitution. You must be willing to take and follow the Oath of Allegiance, be faithful to the US, the US Constitution, and all US laws, and be willing to carry out all responsibilities of a US citizen.

 

Some of the things that may be considered when determining if this requirement is satisfied include: willingness to register for Selective Service when required to do so; membership in the Communist Party, a totalitarian party, or another terrorist organization; any connection to the Nazi Party; and any participation in persecution or genocide.

 

3. Conclusion

 

The process of naturalization allows foreign nationals who meet the requirements listed above to become US citizens, with all of the rights and responsibilities that entails.

 

Again, these nine requirements are:

 

  • That the applicant is at least 18 years old at the time of filing

 

  • That the applicant has been a permanent resident for at least 5 years (or 3 years in some special circumstances)

 

  • That the applicant has resided for at 3 months in the state or presiding USCIS district

 

  • That the applicant has had continuous residence for the previous five years in the United States

 

  • That the applicant has been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months of the previous 5 years

 

  • That the applicant can read, write, and speak basic English

 

  • That the applicant has a basic understanding of US government and history

 

  • That the applicant has good moral character

 

  • That the applicant demonstrates attachment to the principles and ideals laid out the US Constitution

 

You should now have a much stronger understanding of the various aspects of the naturalization process.

 

If you have any questions regarding the information discussed in this guide or about naturalization generally, feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I am very responsive via email and I would be happy to help you.

 

Resources:

 

 

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18:41 10 Jun 20
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01:33 29 Apr 20
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03:17 24 Apr 20
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13:56 09 Apr 20
I reached out to Ashoori Law in order to obtain my US Re-Entry permit late last year. The whole team was friendly, knowledgeable and prompt to my many questions. Michael himself would answer any questions along the way after submission, which... assured me my case was important and on their radar. Having worked with various immigration lawyers in various countries I’ve worked at (6, so far), I know that is not always the case. I recommend to consider Ashoori Law for your US immigration needs, and I expect to reach out to them whenever I next need services in regards to US immigration.read more
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14:27 18 Mar 20
Working with Michael was a pleasure from the beginning to the end. Through the experience of obtaining my re-entry permit, I got to witness first-hand his professionalism, expertise, and attention to detail.Some things that I really... appreciated:-Taking the time to work out the strategy for me, explaining the options I have and the solutions to potential situations that could arise. -Responding quickly and with well-thought out responses, when I emailed him with questions. -Being very meticulous (him as well as his staff) in ensuring the that logistics of my application were executed expediently and carefully. My case was not a big one, yet Michael behaved as if it were a big case. For that he certainly has earned my return business for immigration cases in the future, and I heartily recommend his services to anyone looking for a truly exceptional immigration lawyer.read more
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emma Daniels
02:18 06 Mar 20
Karla was Very friendly to chat with and helpful
James Corcoran
14:38 05 Mar 20
I posting this for my wife in China VPN not workingI am so impressed by Mr. Michael Ashoori and will not hesitate to recommend him to you as one of the best immigration attorneys!!! For my case, I had an urgent timeline to apply for a re-entry... permit. To make it more complicated, I had multiple international travel plans during the application period. I reached out to quite a few attorneys for assistances. They either turned me down directly due to the time constrain or did not reply at all. On the contrary, Michael assured the feasibility of such an application during the first teleconference. Just as what he told me, all worked out perfectly under his coordination. To me, the following sets Mr. Michael Ashoori and his team apart from most of his peers:1) He is not only knowledge of the immigration laws and regulations but also highly familiar of the immigration authorities’ operation details. This is extremely critical to an urgent case since every step matters.2) He has the right AI system setup to monitor the daily workflows and handle the repetition workloads. Therefore, his team can focus on the key variables and client interactions efficiently.3) His fee is very reasonable and competitive.4) He cares about his clients as a friend. That is precious in a business world. You are in good hands if you pick Mr. Michael Ashoori and his team!read more
Humayun Tariq
08:09 05 Mar 20
I applied for the re- entry permit with Micheal Ashoori. I can say without a doubt, Micheal is the most helpful lawyer I have found there. What I love about Micheal is that he is really accessible to anyone, unlike other lawyers. He is always... available for a consultation call and clears out the queries patiently. He gives the best advice suited to the situation which has really helped me out with my planning. When I decided to apply for my re- entry permit with Micheal, he assisted me throughout the process. I just had to mail him the signed copy of the application and rest was handled by him and his team.Also, his team members, specifically Lahaina Araneta, are a joy to work with. They have been very responsive on e-mail even if it is late at night.Micheal, along with his team members, is very polite and never rushes an answer.I would definitely recommend everyone to work with Micheal if they need legal assistance in delicate matters such as immigration. He is the best you can get out there in terms of being responsible, responsive and accessible.read more
Sriram Akella
06:07 27 Feb 20
Worked with Micheal for applying reentry permits for my wife and myself. He prepared all the paper work and was ready so that we could file the day we landed in US. Very Friendly and answered all my questions with patience.Would definitely... recommend him for any immigration related work.read more
bardia bahrami
00:02 26 Feb 20
He was awesome, everything was straight forward with Michael and his team. I received my re-entry permit 6 weeks after submitting my request .
Tom Tam
17:43 22 Feb 20
This lawyer was awesome and helped my family with our own immigration case! 10/10 would recommend!
Remo Barducci
07:56 14 Feb 20
From the very first call where we were taken through the process right through to completion, all the interaction with Ashoori has been of the highest level . The advice we were given , how we were steered through the whole process and the brilliant... communication was simply faultless . Even though we are based in Australia on the other side of the world , time zones were no issue . Anyone planning on using Ashoori law, we recommend them very highlyread more
Blake McGrath
03:01 14 Feb 20
I needed to apply for an E-3 visa from Australia and Ashoori Law made the process very simple. All the required documents were provided as long as important information regarding the visa process, what was required for interviews and all other... relevant information. They have answered any questions I have had in a timely manner and have made the process and application and confirmation of the visa run very smoothly.Highly recommended.read more
Suresh Arumugham
11:01 13 Feb 20
I had utilized the service from Ashoori Law. Compared to other Law firms where you have to check for updates, Ashoori Law is very professional are very prompt in providing timely updates. They will take care of you until the service is complete.... Completely Satisfied.read more
Elena Matsa
07:47 13 Feb 20
Michael was very professional and always available to help by phone or by e-mail. I am thankful to have worked with him.
Edwin Ayala
23:31 12 Feb 20
Very professional , very efficient firm right from the beginning all the way to the end of our case , I think that immigration knows their reputation and that is why our case when very smooth and no issues at all , thank you Micheal Ashoori and team... .read more
nantanut saengprasit
04:19 12 Feb 20
As, I have some problem to apply reentry permit. I am very serious in my case because it was denied for the first time. When, I saw Ashoori Law website. I believe in Mr.Michael who can help me in this case. I got the great support from Mr.Michael... and his team. Finally, my reentry permit was approved. I would like to say Thank you very much. I hope who have the immigration's problem. Please contact to him. He expert for the Immigration law. He can suggest you until finish. Again, Mr.Michael, thank you very much for your help.read more
Arian Shahidi
22:44 10 Feb 20
It was a great experience working with Michael. Before starting to file my documents for my case he explained every detail step by step and guided me. During the process he updated me every time and answered every question accurately. I’m very... satisfied and looking forward to work with him in the future. If you’re looking for an excellent attorney, I strongly recommend Michael Ashoori.read more
Robert Cook
05:47 08 Feb 20
Prompt , efficient , and reliable , a very professional service ..
frederic khoury
11:07 06 Feb 20
The team was very responsive, available to chat on the phone and very responsive to my emails and questions. I would recommend Ashoori's service above any large law firms with whom I had dealt previously. I got exceptional service with Ashoori.
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Michael Ashoori Headshot

Michael Ashoori, Esq.

U.S. Immigration Lawyer

I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.

Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.

Got a question? Send me an email.