A lawful permanent resident may become a naturalized citizen of the United States by filing an application, meeting specific requirements, and appearing at a special hearing. Naturalization laws apply to both men and women and to all races. While there are exemptions, everyone can become a citizen of the United States in the same way and follow the same procedures.
GENERAL NATURALIZATION PROCEDURES
The steps in becoming naturalized, are the same for all persons and are set out below.
If you have a question, you can check with an INS office or order INS publication N- 17, "Naturalization Requirements and General Information."
FILING THE APPLICATION
A person applying for naturalization must complete and submit an "Application for Naturalization" (N-400) and be fingerprinted (except for children under 14). A U.S.
citizen parent requesting naturalization of an adopted child should complete and submit an "Application for Naturalization" (N-400).
If a parent who is applying for naturalization expects to be naturalized before one or more of his or her children reaches 18 years of age, it is likely that the children (who are living in the United States) will automatically become citizens. This would happen if the child's other parent already is a citizen, or deceased, or if both parents are naturalized at the same time, or if the parents are legally separated and the parent being naturalized has legal custody of the children, or if the parent being naturalized is the mother of the child and the child was born out of wedlock. If this is the case, the children may obtain certificates of citizenship in their own names by filing an "Application for Certificate of Citizenship" (N-600).
- EXAMINATION OF THE APPLICATION
After certain actions on the application have been completed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the applicant must come before a naturalization examiner for examination on the application. The Immigration and Naturalization Service will notify the applicant by mail when and where to come for the examination. The applicant will be examined on the information submitted on the application for naturalization, and on his or her English literacy and knowledge of the government and history of the United States.
- OATH CEREMONY
After examination has been completed and the application approved, the applicant win be notified to appear at an oath ceremony where the applicant will be sworn in as a citizen of the United States The applicant may choose to be sworn in by a Service officer in a Service-conducted ceremony or by a judge in a court-conducted ceremony, if available in his/her area.
When the applicant appears at the oath ceremony, he or she takes an oath of allegiance to the United States. After examination has been completed and the application approved, the applicant win be notified to appear at an oath ceremony where the applicant will be sworn in as a citizen of the United States The applicant may choose to be sworn in by a Service officer in a Service-conducted ceremony or by a judge in a court-conducted ceremony, if available in his/her area.
Every applicant must meet every requirement for naturalization unless he or she is a person who comes within a special class that is exempt from some of those requirements. The basic requirements for naturalization are set out below. (There are some exceptions. Check with INS if you have a question.)
A person must be at least 18 years of age before he or she can apply for naturalization.
Only an alien who is a lawful permanent resident can be naturalized.
RESIDENCE AND PHYSICAL PRESENCE
After an applicant has been admitted for permanent residence, he or she must reside in the United States continuously for at least five years immediately before filing the application for naturalization. At least the last 3 months of that five years' residence, immediately before filing of the petition, must also be residence in the INS district where the petition is filed.
CHARACTER AND LOYALTY
An application for naturalization must show that, during all of the five years just before filing an application for naturalization, and up until the date of naturalization, the applicant has been a person of good moral character who believes in the principles of the Constitution of the United States and is favorable to the good order and happiness of the United States. A person also cannot become a citizen if he or she has been convicted of murder or an aggravated felony at any time.
COMMUNIST PARTY AND SIMILAR MEMBERSHIP
A person cannot become a citizen who, at any time during a period of ten years just before he or she files an application for naturalization, has been a member of or connected with the Communist Party or a similar party within or outside the United States; or a member of, or connected with any other government, other party or organization that is against all organized government or for world communism, dictatorship in the United States, overthrowing the United States Government by force, injuring or killing officers of the United States, or sabotage.
A person who has broken the immigration laws and as a result has been ordered to leave the United States cannot be naturalized while under proceedings.
LITERACY AND EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS
Unless physically unable to do so, an applicant for naturalization must be able to speak and understand simple English as well as read and write it. However, a person who is over 50 years old on the date of the examination, and who has at that time been living in the United States for at least 20 years as a lawful permanent resident, or who is over 55 years of age, and has been living in the United States for at least 15 years as a permanent resident, may become a citizen even though he or she cannot speak, read or write English.
Every person applying for their own naturalization, including the persons mentioned above, must pass an examination showing that they know basic information about the history and form of government of the Untied States. There are no exceptions to this requirement The examination on these matters and on English is given by a naturalization examiner. The questions the examiner asks are in simple English and to be able to answer them requires knowledge only of subjects that anyone who has tried to learn will be familiar with.
The Attorney General shall also give give consideration in determining the knowledge requirements to persons over 65 with 20 years as a Lawful Permanent Resident. Special consideration has been determined to be a test of 10 out of 25 civics questions in the person's language where they only need to answer 6 correctly.
OATH OF ALLEGIANCE
Before being admitted to citizenship (unless a child too young to understand), an applicant for naturalization must give up his or her foreign allegiance and any foreign title he or she has and must promise to obey the Constitution and laws of the United States. Unless it is against his or her religion, he or she must also promise to bear arms or fight for the United States, to perform other types of service in the armed forces of the United States, and to do work of national importance when asked to do so.
There are several special classes of persons who can become naturalized even though they cannot meet all of the requirements. These include servicepersons, veterans, wives and husbands of U.S. citizens, surviving spouses of U.S. servicepersons, seamen and employees of organizations promoting U.S. interests abroad.