Naturalization is the process of obtaining U.S. citizenship. The general requirements are as follows:
- You have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years
- You have been physically present in the United States for at least half of this time (30 months)
- You have not had any trips outside the U.S. of 6 months or longer during the 5-year period
- You have lived in the state in which you wish to file for at least 3 months
- You are at least 18 years old
- You can demonstrate “good moral character” during your time as a permanent resident, including no disqualifying criminal issues
- You have sufficient knowledge of English and U.S. Civics and are willing to swear to the U.S. Oath of Allegiance
Note that if you have been married to a U.S. citizen for at least 3 years as a permanent resident, you are eligible for citizenship after 3 rather than 5 years, provided all other eligibility requirements are met including reduced continuous residence and physical presence requirements.
In addition, there are other ways to obtain citizenship, such as qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces, or as a child born outside the U.S. to U.S. citizen parents.
Benefits of citizenship
Becoming a U.S. citizen provides many rights that you do not have as a Lawful Permanent Resident, which includes voting rights, opportunities for federal jobs, opportunities to become an elected official, obtaining a U.S. passport, and immigration benefits for non-U.S. citizen family members. While the United States permits dual citizenship, not all countries do. You should ensure that your home country permits dual citizenship before applying for naturalization.
Please contact a member of the Immigration practice for additional information about the naturalization process.