Naturalization is the process by which US 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).
Do I qualify to apply for US Citizenship?
US Citizenship Requirements
In most cases, an applicant for naturalization must be a permanent resident (green card holder) before filing. Except for certain US military members and their dependents, naturalization can only be granted in the United States.
In order to qualify for US citizenship through naturalization, you must first demonstrate that you fit into one of the following categories:
- Individual. You are at least 18 years old and have been a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) for at least five (5) years.
- Spouse. You are at least 18 years old and have been a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) are least three (3) years, AND you have been married to and living with the same US citizen for the last three (3) years, AND your spouse has been a US citizen for the last three (3) years.
- US Military. There are two conditions for qualifying as a member of the US military:
- You are at least 18 years old and have been a lawful permanent resident with at least one (1) year of honorable US Armed Forces service, AND you are filing your application for naturalization while still in the service or within six (6) months after the termination of such service.
- If you have served honorably as a member of the Selected Reserve or in active-duty status during a designated period of hostilities, then you may apply for naturalization without having been physically present in the United States for any specified period.
- Children. Your child may qualify for naturalization if you are a US citizen, the child was born outside the US, the child is currently residing outside the US, and all other eligibility requirements are met.
- Other. If you are at least 18 years old and you do not fulfill any of the requirements listed above, contact us and we can help further determine your eligibility.
Additional Requirements for US Citizenship
Qualified applicants must also fulfill these additional requirements:
- Meet the continuous residence and physical presence requirements. In general, the “continuous residence” requirement is met through 5 years of continuous residence in the United States as a lawful permanent resident, or 3 years if you became a lawful permanent resident by marriage to a US citizen. To meet the “physical presence” requirement, you must be able to demonstrate that you have resided in the State where you are applying for at least 3 months, and during the 3-year or 5-year period preceding your application, you spent at least half of the time in the US without any continuous absences of greater than 6 months (some exceptions apply).
- Meet the good moral character requirement. For the purposes of the naturalization process, good moral character means that for the 5 years prior to applying, you must be free of any offense that would cast doubt on your good moral character. If you have questions about your good moral character, it is best to work with an experienced immigration attorney.
- Be attached to the principle of the Constitution and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States.
- Be willing to bear arms, perform noncombatant service, or work of national importance.
- Not otherwise be barred from becoming a US Citizen.
- Demonstrate knowledge of the English language, US history, and US government.
How do I apply for US citizenship?
The USCIS Form N-400 Application for US Naturalization
USCIS Form N-400 is used to apply for US citizenship through naturalization.
When can I file? We suggest filing Form N-400 as soon as you become eligible to apply, based on the requirements listed above. Form N-400 can even be filed up to 90 days prior to your eligibility date.
How long does it take? In general, you should expect to wait from 4-6 months from the time you file Form N-400 until your swearing-in as a US Citizen. Processing time for Form N-400 can vary from location to location, and depends on how busy USCIS is processing applications.
We Can Help You Apply for US Citizenship
At Richards and Jurusik Immigration Law, we focus our legal practice on the Immigration and Nationality Laws of the United States. We routinely help US permanent residents with their US citizenship needs, including completing and filing Form N-400 and attending interviews with our clients.
Our Resources for US Citizenship
Additional Outside Resources
The Arrive Podcast
With 1 to 2 new episodes each month, the Arrive Podcast can help you stay updated on the US immigration matters that matter the most to you.
Our US Immigration Videos
Richards and Jurusik Immigration Law regularly creates video content about the current state of a certain aspect of US immigration law, and how it applies to Canadians living and working in the United States today.