Citizenship

Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is one of the most important decisions in an individual’s life.  If you decide to apply to become a U.S. citizen, you will be showing your commitment to the United States and your loyalty to its Constitution.  In return, you are rewarded with all the rights and privileges that are part of U.S. citizenship.You may become a U.S. citizen either at birth or after birth.  Individuals who are born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and individuals born in certain territories or outlying possessions of the United States are citizens at birth.  Also, individuals born outside the United States may be citizens at birth if their parent or parents were citizens at the time of birth and other requirements are met. 

Additionally, you may become a U.S. citizen after birth either through your parents, known as “derived” or “acquired” citizenship, or by applying for naturalization on your own.

  • 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. See more below.
    • 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. See more below.
    • You have qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces and meet all other eligibility requirements. See more below.
    • 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.
  • How to Apply for Naturalization

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

    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.  See more below.

  • Naturalization for Spouses of U.S. Citizens

    In general, you may qualify for naturalization under Section 319(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) if you have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years, have been living in marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse during such time, and meet all other eligibility requirements under this section.

    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.

    For information relating to spouses of military members, see below.

  • General Eligibility Requirements

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

    • Be 18 or older
    • Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
    • 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
    • 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 lawful permanent resident for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
    • Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization until the time of naturalization
    • 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
    • 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
  • Spouses of U.S. Citizens Employed Abroad

    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 stationed abroad in such employment for at least 1 year, may be eligible for naturalization under Section 319(b) of the INA.

    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:

    • No specific period as a permanent resident (green card holder) is required (but the spouse must be a permanent resident)
    • No specific period of continuous residence or physical presence in the United States is required
    • No specific period of marital union is required; however, the spouses must be living in marital union.

    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.

  • Exceptions & Accommodations

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

  • English Language Exemptions

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

    • 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
    • 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).

    Note: Even if you qualify for the “50/20” or “55/15” English language exceptions listed above, you must still take the civics test.  You may be permitted to take the civics test in your native language, but only if your command of spoken English is insufficient to conduct a valid examination in English. 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.

  • Medical Disability Exceptions to English and Civics

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  • Citizenship Through Naturalization

    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.

    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.

  • Continuous Residence Exceptions

    If you are engaged in certain kinds of overseas employment you may be eligible for an exception to the continuous residence requirement.

  • Disability Accommodations

    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.

  • Oath of Allegiance

    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.

  • 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.

    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.

    An organization may obtain USCIS recognition as an American institution of research for the purpose of preserving the continuous residence status of its employees who are, or will be, naturalization applicants assigned abroad for an extended period of time.

  • The Naturalization Test

    One of the requirements for U.S. citizenship through naturalization is to take the naturalization test to demonstrate that you are able to read, write, and speak basic English and that you have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government (also known as “civics”).

    Once you have completed and submitted your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and you have had your fingerprints taken at a USCIS facility, you will receive an appointment for an interview. At your naturalization interview, you will be required to answer questions about your application and background. You will also take an English and civics test unless you qualify for an exemption or waiver.

  • English & Civics

    During your interview, a USCIS officer will test your ability to read, write, and speak English and your knowledge of civics.  You must read one sentence out of three sentences correctly in English, and you must write one sentence out of three sentences correctly in English.  Your ability to speak English is determined during your interview on your naturalization application.  Finally, you must answer 6 out of 10 civics questions correctly to achieve a passing score.

    You will be given two opportunities to take the English and civics tests and to answer all questions relating to your naturalization application in English.  If you fail any of the tests at your initial interview, you will be retested on the portion of the test that you failed (English or civics) between 60 and 90 days from the date of your initial interview.  See 8 CFR 312.5(a) and 335.3(b).

  • If You Don’t Pass

    If an applicant fails the English and/or civics test during the first examination, the applicant will be required to take the same version of the test, old or new, when the applicant is retested, even if the retest is scheduled on or after October 1, 2009.

  • Citizenship Through Parents

    Whether someone born outside the United States to a U.S. citizen parent or parents is a U.S. citizen depends on the law in effect when the person was born.

    These laws have changed over the years, but usually require a combination of at least one parent being a U.S. citizen when the child was born and having lived in the U.S. or its possessions for a period of time. Additionally, children born outside the United States may become citizens after birth based on their parent’s citizenship or naturalization.

  • Biological or Adopted Children Residing in the United States

    A child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when all of the following conditions have been met under section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Child Citizenship Act (CCA):

    • At least one parent of the child is a U.S. citizen, whether by birth or naturalization.
    • The child is under the age of 18 years.
    • The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent based on a lawful admission for permanent residence.
    • An adopted child may automatically become a citizen under section 320 of the INA if the child satisfies the requirements applicable to adopted children under sections 101(b)(1)(E), (F) or (G) of the INA. See the “INA” link to the right.

    To qualify as a “child” for purposes of this section 320 of the INA, the individual must be unmarried.  Also, a person who was born out of wedlock (meaning that the parents were not married at the time of the person’s birth), must be “legitimated” while under the age of 16 and while in the legal custody of the legitimating parent. See section 101(c)(1) of the INA.  Finally, a stepchild who has not been adopted does not qualify as a child under this section.

    A person who satisfies the requirements of section 320 of the INA before turning 18 automatically obtains citizenship without having to file an application.  However, in order to obtain a certificate of citizenship from USCIS, an individual must file Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship.

    Individuals who were age 18 or older on February 27, 2001, do not qualify for citizenship under section 320 of the INA as amended by the CCA.  A person who was over the age of 18 on February 27, 2001, may, however, be a citizen under the law in effect prior to the enactment of the CCA.

  • Biological or Adopted Children Residing Outside the United States

    Biological or adopted children who regularly reside outside of the United States may qualify for naturalization under section 322 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Child Citizenship Act (CCA). In general, to be eligible for citizenship under section 322 of the INA, a child must meet the following requirements:

    • At least one parent is a U.S. citizen or, if deceased, the parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of death.
    • The U.S. citizen parent or his or her U.S. citizen parent has (or at the time of death had) been physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for at least 5 years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of 14.
    • The child is under the age of 18 years.
    • The child is residing outside of the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent (or, if the citizen parent is deceased, an individual who does not object to the application).
    • The child is temporarily present in the United States after having entered lawfully and is maintaining lawful status in the United States.
    • An adopted child may be eligible for naturalization under section 322 of the INA if the child satisfies the requirements applicable to adopted children under sections 101(b)(1)(E), (F) or (G) of the INA.

    To qualify as a “child” for purposes of this section, the person must be unmarried.  Also, a person who was born out of wedlock (meaning that the parents were not married at the time of the person’s birth), must be “legitimated” while under the age of 16 and while in the legal custody of the legitimating parent. See section 101(c)(1) of the INA.  Finally, a stepchild who has not been adopted does not qualify as a child under this section.

    An application on behalf of an eligible child must be filed on Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate under section 322 of the INA.  The Form N-600K must be filed on behalf of the child by the U.S. citizen parent.  If the U.S. citizen parent of the child has died, a U.S. citizen grandparent or U.S. citizen legal guardian may apply on behalf of the child within 5 years of the parent’s death.

    To obtain citizenship under section 322 of the INA, the application must be filed, approved, and the child must take the oath of allegiance, if required to do so, before the child reaches age 18.

    Note: For children of some members of the military who are overseas on active duty, section 322(d) of the INA waives the requirement that the child be temporarily present in the United States and provides that any period of residence overseas on active duty qualifies as residence in the United States.

    After naturalization, a child can obtain a U.S. passport if so desired.

  • Citizenship for Military Personnel & Family Members

    USCIS recognizes the important sacrifices made by non-U.S. citizen members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. USCIS is committed to processing their naturalization applications in a timely and efficient manner while providing exemplary customer service, maintaining the integrity of the immigration system, and maintaining the security of the process.

    Members of the U.S. armed forces and their dependents (spouses and children) may be eligible for citizenship, to include expedited and overseas processing, under special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

  • Citizenship for Military Members

    Members of the U.S. armed forces may be eligible for citizenship by qualifying for naturalization through military service under Section 328 or 329 of the INA.

  • Citizenship for Spouses & Children of Military Members

    Spouses of U.S. citizen members of the U.S. armed forces who are (or will be) deployed may be eligible for expedited naturalization or for overseas processing. Children of U.S. citizen military members deployed abroad may be eligible for overseas processing.

  • General Requirements & Exceptions

    Qualifying military service is generally in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and certain components of the National Guard and the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve. The general requirements for naturalization may be diminished or waived for qualifying service member.

  • Naturalization through One Year of Qualifying Service During Peacetime

    Naturalization through One Year of Qualifying Service During “Peacetime”

    Generally, a person who has served honorably in the U.S. armed forces at any time may be eligible to apply for naturalization under section 328 of the INA. The military community sometimes refers to this as “peacetime naturalization.”

    In general, an applicant for naturalization under Section 328 of the INA must:

    • Be age 18 or older
    • Have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least 1 year and, if separated from the U.S. armed forces, have been separated honorably
    • Be a permanent resident at the time of examination on the naturalization application
    • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
    • Have a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics)
    • Have been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the law
    • Have an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law
    • Have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years and have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application, UNLESS the applicant has filed an application while still in the service or within 6 months of separation.  In the latter case, the applicant is not required to meet these residence and physical presence requirements.
  • Naturalization through Qualifying Service during Periods of Hostilities

    Generally, members of the U.S. armed forces who serve honorably for any period of time (even 1 day) during specifically designated periods of hostilities (see below) are eligible for naturalization under section 329 of the INA through such military service.

    In general, an applicant for naturalization under INA 329 must:

    • Have served honorably in active-duty status, or as a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, for any amount of time during a designated period of hostilities and, if separated from the U.S. armed forces, have been separated honorably
    • Have been lawfully admitted as a permanent resident at any time after enlistment or induction, OR have been physically present in the United States or certain territories at the time of enlistment or induction (regardless of whether the applicant was admitted as a permanent resident)
    • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
    • Have a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics)
    • Have been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the law
    • Have an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law

    There is no minimum age requirement for an applicant under this section. The designated periods of hostilities are:

    • April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918
    • September 1, 1939 to December 31, 1946
    • June 25, 1950 to July 1, 1955
    • February 28, 1961 to October 15, 1978
    • August 2, 1990 to April 11, 1991
    • September 11, 2001 until the present

    The current designated period of hostilities starting on September 11, 2001, will terminate when the President issues an Executive Order terminating the period.

    Note: current members of the U.S. armed forces who qualify for naturalization under sections 328 or 329 of the INA can proceed with their naturalization application either in the United States or overseas.

  • Application Processing

    Service members are not charged filing or biometrics fees.  Service members should complete the applications stated below to apply for naturalization:

    • Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
    • Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service (establishes periods of honorable service certified by the military)

    Note: Every military installation should have a designated point-of-contact (POC) to handle your application and certify your Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service (Form N-426). You should inquire through your chain of command to find out who this person is so they can help you with your application packet.

    The designated POC may assist you with the following:

    • Certification of Form N-426
    • Information about fingerprinting and how to comply with the fingerprinting requirement
    • Submitting the N-400 package to the Nebraska Service Center (NSC) at the following address.

    The Nebraska Service Center
    PO Box 87426
    Lincoln, NE 68501-7426

    Once your application is received, the NSC will review the application and send it to the USCIS office closest to your location.  If you have a preference as to where you would like to be interviewed, you may provide that information in a cover letter attached to your naturalization packet.

    The USCIS office will set a date to interview you to determine your eligibility for naturalization.  If your application for naturalization is approved, USCIS will inform you of the date you can take the oath of allegiance.

  • Posthumous Citizenship for Military Members

    Generally, individuals who served honorably in the U.S. armed forces and who died as a result of injury or disease incurred while serving in an active duty status during specified periods of military hostilities, as listed above, may be eligible for posthumous citizenship under section 329A of the INA.

    Form N-644, Application for Posthumous Citizenship, must be filed on behalf of the deceased service member within 2 years of his or her death.  If approved, a Certificate of Citizenship will be issued in the name of the deceased veteran establishing posthumously that he or she was a U.S. citizen on the date of his or her death.

  • Citizenship for Spouses and Children of Military Members

    Spouses of U.S. citizen members of the U.S. armed forces (service members) may be eligible for expedited or overseas naturalization.

    Children of service members may be eligible for overseas naturalization.

  • Expedited Naturalization for Spouses of Military Members

    Spouses of U.S. citizen service members who are (or will be) deployed may be eligible for expedited naturalization in the United States under Section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

    In general, an applicant for naturalization under section 319(b) of the INA must:

    • Be age 18 or older
    • Establish that his or her U.S. citizen spouse is deployed abroad as a service member
    • Be present in the U.S. pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence (green card holder) at the time of examination on the naturalization application
    • Be present in the U.S. at the time of naturalization
    • Declare in good faith upon naturalization an intent to reside abroad with the U.S. citizen spouse and to reside in the U.S. immediately upon the citizen spouse’s termination of service abroad
    • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
    • Have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics)
    • Have been, and continue to be, a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law
  • Overseas Naturalization for Spouses of Military Members

    The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 added Section 319(e) to the INA which allows certain eligible spouses of service members to naturalize abroad without traveling to the United States for any part of the naturalization process and also treats qualifying residence abroad as residence and physical presence in the U.S. for purposes of naturalization.

    In general, to be eligible for naturalization abroad pursuant to section 319(e) of the INA, the permanent resident spouse of a member of the U.S. armed forces must:

    • Be authorized to accompany the service member abroad pursuant to the member’s official orders
    • Be residing abroad with the member in marital union
    • Meet the requirements of either Section 316(a) or 319(a) of the INA at the time of filing the naturalization application, except for the residence and physical presence requirements.

    Section 319(a) applies to spouses of U.S. citizens who have been permanent residents for 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the naturalization application and who have lived in marital union with their citizen spouses for at least those 3 years.  Section 316(a) applies to spouses who have been permanent residents for 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the naturalization application.

  • Overseas Naturalization for Children of Military Members

    The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 amended Section 322 of the INA to allow certain eligible children of service members to become naturalized U.S. citizens without having to travel to the United States for any part of the naturalization process.

    Under section 322 of the INA, a parent who is a U.S. citizen (or, if the citizen parent has died during the preceding 5 years, a citizen grandparent or citizen legal guardian) may apply for naturalization on behalf of a child born outside of the United States who has not acquired citizenship automatically under section 320 of the INA. The general conditions are that:

    • At least one parent is a U.S. citizen or, if deceased, the parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of death.
    • The U.S. citizen parent or his or her U.S. citizen parent has (or at the time of death had) been physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for at least 5 years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of 14.
    • The child is under the age of 18 years.
    • The child is residing outside of the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent (or, if the citizen parent is deceased, an individual who does not object to the application).
    • The child is temporarily present in the United States after having entered lawfully and is maintaining lawful status in the United States.

    Pursuant to section 322(d) of the INA, a child of a member of the U.S. armed forces who is abroad with the service member pursuant to official orders is not required to be present in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission, and the U.S. citizen parent service member may count any period of time of residence abroad on official orders as physical presence in the United States. For more information, including how to apply, see the “Overseas Naturalization Eligibility For Certain Children of U.S. armed forces Members” link to the right.

  • Survivor Benefits for Relatives of U.S. Citizen Military Members

    If you are the spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen who died as a result of combat while serving in active duty status in the U.S. armed forces, you may be eligible for immigration benefits as an “immediate relative” for up to 2 years after your service member relative’s death.

    Additionally, a surviving spouse, child, or parent of such service members may be eligible for naturalization as the surviving relative of the service member under Section 319(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

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