How Do I Become a U.S. Citizen?

Leaving aside a few special exemptions, becoming a U.S. citizen is a multi-year process which begins with establishing legal permanent residence through a Green Card. After that, you need to maintain continuous residence in the U.S. for three years (if married to a U.S. citizen) or five years (otherwise), stay physically within the U.S. for half that time, and at the end of the time period, demonstrate good moral character, a knowledge of English, and a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government.

 In order to become a U.S. citizen, you must:

  1. have been admitted to lawful permanent residence for five years (three years if Green Card obtained through marriage to U.S. citizen);
  2. be 18 years old; be maintain continuous residence for five years (three years if Green Card obtained through marriage to U.S. citizen);
  3. be physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the 5 years (or half of the 3 years if you obtained a Green Card through a U.S. citizen spouse);
  4. be a person of good moral character for the 5 years (or 3 years if the alien obtained a Green Card through a U.S. citizen spouse);
  5. demonstrate an elementary level of English (reading, writing, understanding); and,
  6. have knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of history and government of the United States.

Special exceptions to some of the general requirements are available for the disabled, members of the military, veterans, spouses married to U.S. citizens living overseas, and Legal Permanent Residents who work for certain organizations that promote U.S. interests abroad. Similarly exemptions from the English language requirements are available for those over 55 years who and have lived in the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident for 15 years, or are over 50 years old and have lived in the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident for 20 years.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has also created a 58-page guide to provide information for those interested in naturalization.

You can find out more information on the USCIS website.

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