Naturalization is the process by which a foreign national can acquire U.S. citizenship through application. In order to successfully gain citizenship by naturalization, the foreign national must meet certain criteria:
- the ability to read, write and speak basic English;
- the ability to pass a test on U.S. history and government;
- the ability to prove his/her permanent residence (green card holder) for at least 5 years (if married to a U.S. citizen and “living in a marital union”, the requirement is 3 years;
- must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of that 5 or 3 year period, in the aggregate;
- must not have abandoned their residence in the U.S. by relocating to another country with the intention to live and work there permanently; and
- must be a person of “good moral character”
Each year, many permanent residents choose to formalize their relationship to the United States. They are motivated by loyalty and love of their adopted country and interest in the benefits they will receive as citizens.
Applicants for naturalization go through a screening process to determine whether they have any arrests or convictions.
The applicant must lawfully enter the country and gain legal permanent resident status. He or she must reside in the U.S. continuously for 5 years (3 years for spouses of US citizens) as mentioned above.
In order to acquire American citizenship by naturalization, applicant must be at least 18 years old. If the applicant is not an adult, parents can file applications on behalf of their children under this age with their petition. In most cases children receive derivative citizenship and they don’t need to satisfy the five-year residence requirement.
As previously mentioned, the applicant must possess the ability to understand, speak, read and write basic English. They must demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history, politics, and government and must show that they are persons of “good moral character”. This typically means, among other things, no crimes, timely filing of tax returns, no tax debt and proof that the applicant is current on any obligations for child or spousal support.
The English language and the history requirements can be very challenging for older applicants, or individuals who may never have learned to read or write in any language.
Another requirement is the “attachment to constitutional principles”, in fact applicant must show they are attached to the principles of the constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States”.
There are many advantages of becoming a U.S. citizen, the following are examples:
- there’s no need to renew a green card;
- no risk or removal (deportation), even though there are few exceptions;
- you can easily travel in and outside the United States;
- ability to take long trips outside the U.S.;
- ability to petition more family members;
- your green-card holder children can become U.S. citizen;
- ability to vote and to run for Public Office;
- ability to obtain federal jobs;
- tax and estate reasons;
- ability to obtain a U.S. passport.