Frequent Questions on U.S. Citizenship (FAQs)
1. What are the most important benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen?
2. When should I apply for U.S. citizenship?
3. What are the general requirements to become a naturalized U.S. citizen?
In most situations, a person is eligible to apply for Naturalization (U.S. citizenship), if they meet the following criteria:
- Have been a Legal Permanent Resident for the last 5 years (or possibly 3 years if your spouse is a US citizen) and have maintained the residency continuously.
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Have good moral character.
- Have the ability to speak, read and write in English and pass a civics test about U.S. history and government. (See The Citizenship Test: Study materials)
- Have been physically present in the U.S. at least half of the required time as a U.S. Legal Permanent Resident.
- Take an oath of allegiance and swear loyalty to the United States.
4. How much time can a Legal Permanent Resident spend outside of the country and still be eligible to apply for naturalization in the U.S.?
5. How long is the N-400 U.S. citizenship application process, and how long after the interview will I have the oath ceremony?
6. Can I apply for U.S. citizenship while my application for removal of residency conditions, I-751, is still pending?
7. I got my U.S. residency by marrying a U.S. citizen, but we are divorced. Can I apply for citizenship after 3 years of having my legal permanent residency or do I have to wait 5 years?
8. Can I still be eligible for U.S. citizenship if I have a criminal charge or conviction?
9. I don’t speak English well, do I still have to take the language and civics exam, or are there any exceptions?
You are exempted from taking the English exam, and may be allowed to take the civics test in the language of your choice if you fit into one of the following categories:
- You are age 50 or older and have lived in the United States as a Permanent Resident for periods totaling at least 20 years.
- You are age 55 or older and have lived in the United States as a Permanent Resident for periods totaling at least 15 years.
- You are age 65 or older and have lived in the United States as Permanent Resident for periods totaling at least 20 years. In this case, you may take an abbreviated civics exam.
If you elect to take the civics test in a different language than English, you must bring an interpreter to the interview.
To qualify for one of these exceptions, your time as a Permanent Resident does not have to be continuous and your time as a conditional resident counts towards your total time of residency as well. You may also be able to qualify for a language and civics test exception if you have extraordinary health conditions.
10. If I am a senior, do I still need to take the English and history exam at the naturalization interview to obtain U.S. citizenship?
11. I have served in the military forces, can I apply for US citizenship earlier?
Yes. U.S. Military personnel may be eligible to file for U.S. Citizenship earlier than other civilians, even if they served during a period of peacetime. Also, while some general naturalization requirements apply to members or veterans of the U.S. military, certain requirements may not apply to you or be reduced. For example, if you are under active duty you may not have to reside in or be physically present in the U.S. for any length of time before you may apply for naturalization.There are special services and assistance that the government provides for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Information about eligibility and access to these services can be found at the following websites:
12. When are children eligible to obtain U.S. citizenship automatically through their parents?
If you become a U.S. Citizen, you children might become U.S. Citizens even if they were not born in the U.S. through the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA). This law applies to children who turned 18 on or after the effective date, February 27, 2001.To qualify for automatic citizenship under the CCA your child must meet the following criteria:
- Be under the age of 18;
- Have a parent who is a U.S. Citizen;
- Be in the “legal” custody of that U.S. Citizen parent; and
- Be present in the U.S. with Legal Permanent Resident Status.
Children who naturalize automatically do not have to take an “Oath of Allegiance” and are permitted to maintain their citizenship of any other country that they possessed on the day of their naturalization.