Citizenship by Naturalization
The criteria for naturalization are as follows:
- Lawful Permanent Resident
- 18 years or older
- Continuous Residence & Physical Presence
- Good Moral Character
- Must be attached to principles of Constitution and well-disposed to good order and happiness of the U.S.
- Must be willing to bear arms, perform noncambatant service or work of national importance
- Not be Barred
- Must demonstrate knowledge of English language, U.S. History, and Government
- Oath of Allegiance
Lawful Permanent Resident
[INA §§316(a), 318, 8 USC §§1427(a), 1429]
An applicant must be a LPR to qualify for naturalization. Courts have consistently ruled that obtaining LPR status through fraud or error is grounds for denial of naturalization. Conditional Permanent Residents (CPRs) may also be eligible for citizenship if they have accrued requisite residence period. The only exception to LPR status for citizenship is for certain persons who served honorably in the U.S. armed forces.
18 years or older
[INA §334(b), 8 USC §1445(b)]
Applicants must be 18 years or older to qualify for naturalization unless waived due to military involvement.
Continuous Residence & Physical Presence
Residency requirement is generally 5 years continuous residency in the years subsequent to naturalization application. If married to a USC the residency requirement shortened to 3 years if: (i) USC spouse is a USC for 3 or more years; and (ii) the parties have been living in marital union for 3 years. 8 CFR 319.1(a)(1). Same-sex marriages are also covered. A spouse or child who obtained LPR status through the battered or extreme cruelty rule may also apply for citizenship within 3-year period. Applicant must have resided in State where application is filed for at least 3 months. Applicants must remain residents of U.S. continuously from date of application through admission to U.S. Citizenship.
Applicant must be physically present in the United States for at least one half of the requisite residency requirement period (half of 5 or 3 years; see above). Residency and physical presence requirements waived for time spent abroad in military service.
Good Moral Character
Must be a person of good moral character for 5 years prior to filing and through admission. Time is reduced to 3 years for spouse of USC/ battered rule, and, reduced to 1 year for person in military. Examples of instances of GMC was found to be lacking include:
- False Testimony: Where there was a subjective intent to deceive with the purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit. Materiality is not a consideration.
- Crimes: Certain criminal conviction (such as murder; unless pardoned) carry a permanent bar. Admitting crimes without a conviction are considered. Expunges crimes are considered. Dismissed crimes are considered. Applicants on parole are not necessary excluded from having GMC, put parol period must end before application will be approved.
- Voting unlawfully or false claim to USC: If a person resided in U.S. prior to age of 16, reasonably believed that he/she was a USC (along with other conditions), then applicant will not be barred from GMC.
- Polygamy: Can be grounds for denial of GMC.
- Discretionary GMC Determination: Nonsupport of dependent, adultery tending to destroy a marriage, bigamy/polygamy, commission of unlawful acts
- Failure to register with Selective Service: Willful and knowing failure to register with SS (between 18 and 26 years old) may result in adverse GMC determination.
- National Security Threats
Must be attached to principles of Constitution and well-disposed to good order and happiness of the U.S.
Applicants must swear an oath of allegiance to U.S. and must reveal all organizations of which he/she has been a member.
Must be willing to bear arms, perform noncambatant service or work of national importance
A person may be eligible for modification of this requirement based on religious belief, conscience, or deeply held moral beliefs.
Not be Barred
Applicants must not be otherwise barred as a:
- Subversive [INA 313-16, 8 USC 1424-27, 8 CFR 313.1];
- Communist Party member;
- Wartime Deserter (convicted);
- Person where removal proceedings are pending;
- Person who applied for and received relief from Selective Service system based on alienage.
Must demonstrate knowledge of English language, U.S. History, and Government
An elementary-level reading, writing and understanding of the English language is required. Understanding of fundamental U.S. history and government is also required. Advanced age exceptions or medical disability waivers may apply.
Oath of Allegiance
The final step for naturalization is for the applicant to swear an oath of allegiance to the U.S. and renounce allegiance to other sovereigns. Naturalization is not completed until this step takes place and applicant is still subject to removal proceedings until oath of allegiance completes.