To become a United States citizen at birth, you must have been born in the United States or certain territories or outlying possessions of the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States; OR had a parent or parents who were citizens at the time of your birth (if you were born abroad) and meet other requirements.
To become a citizen after birth, you must apply for “derived” or “acquired” citizenship through parents or apply for naturalization.
Naturalization. You may qualify for naturalization if:
- You have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements.
- You have been a permanent resident for 3 years or more and meet all eligibility requirements.
- You have qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces and meet all other eligibility requirements.
- 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.
If you are applying for naturalization based on five years as a lawful permanent resident or based on three years as a lawful permanent resident married to a U.S. citizen, you may apply for naturalization up to 90 days before you meet the “continuous residence” requirement.
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.
A person must have resided for at least three months in the state where the application is filed. He must be physically present in the US for at least one-half of the 5 years (or one-half of 3 years).
An absence between 6 months and 1 year raises a rebuttable presumption that continuity of residence has been interrupted. An absence of 1 year or more “shall” disrupt the continuity of residence. However, there are exceptions:
- Military service abroad
- Employees working abroad
- Legal permanent resident spouse of a United States Citizen working abroad for a US company
- Spouse, child or parent of a United States Citizen who died in combat or spouse of person granted United States Citizen posthumously.
A person whose continuous residence has been broken may reapply 4 years and 1 day following the date of his return to US to resume residency. If the statutory 3-year period is involved, then it is 2 years and 1 day following return.
Good Moral Character Requirement. Must be a person of good moral character for 5 years (or for a spouse of a US Citizen, 3 years, or for person in the military, 1 year) prior to filing and up to the time of admission.
The Naturalization Test. Most naturalization applicants are required to take a test on English and Civics (U.S. history and government). Study Materials for the Civics Test. Study Materials for the English Test.
If you fail, 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.