What Are the Requirements for U.S. Citizenship?


Quick Answer

United States citizen requirements are put in place to instruct prospective American citizens on the proper process. This process must be followed in order to attain U.S. citizenship.

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Full Answer

Every year, many people apply for U.S. citizenship. Before they do so, they must fulfill certain requirements. Anyone who is not a naturally born U.S. citizen and wishes to become one must be naturalized through the U.S. citizenship process. In order to do this, they must meet the following requirements.

Age Requirement
Before someone applies for citizenship, he must be at least 18 years of age. This is the age of majority where the law allows someone to make decisions as an adult. There are special instructions to follow in order to apply for U.S. citizenship for a minor child.

Permanent Residence Requirements
In order to apply for U.S. citizen status, applicants should be a legal permanent resident for a predetermined amount of time. This time varies depending on the applicant's circumstances. If someone has a green card, he or she must've had it for at least five years before applying for citizenship. The spouse of a U.S. citizen must have established residency for at least three years. Refugees who apply for citizenship must have lived in the U.S. for a minimum of four years. Applicants must have lived the more than half of this time in the U.S. If an applicant has a home in another country and resides there for an extended amount of time, this may delay or suspend a citizenship application. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes certain allowances for students and members of the military. Living in the district or state where the application process is taking place is also a requirement.

Knowledge of English U.S. Civics
Anyone who wants to apply for U.S. citizenship must be able to understand, read, write and speak English. These English skills are tested during the citizenship test and interview. Sometimes, the USCIS makes allowances for elderly applicants, who are longtime U.S. residents and they may be able to skip the English knowledge requirement. Additionally, applicants for U.S. citizenship need to be able to understand how the U.S. government functions and be knowledgeable in U.S. history. This is also tested during the citizenship test and interview.

Morality Requirements
Applicants for U.S. citizenship must be of good moral character. This means that they do not have a criminal history background and have a track record of following the rule of law.

Understand the U.S. Constitution
New citizens to the U.S. must be able to prove knowledge of and agree to the rights as provided by the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution is the foundation of the U.S. government and determines the rule of law.

Making It Official
If the application process goes smoothly and all of the tests and requirements are met, the person is allowed to become a citizen. New citizens take an oath administered by a judge, often at a swearing-in ceremony with other new citizens. The new citizens also receive certificates of naturalization that show their new citizen status.

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