To be eligible for naturalization, an applicant must fulfill certain eligibility requirements set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
To be eligible at the time of filing, an applicant must be:
- At least 18 years old;
- A lawful permanent resident (green card holder);
- A resident of the United States for at least five years;
- Physically present in the United States for at least 30 months;
- A person of good moral character;
- Able to speak, read, write, and understand the English language;
- Knowledgeable about U.S. government and history; and
- Willing and able to take the Oath of Allegiance.
There are special naturalization provisions that exempt some applicants from one or more of the general requirements listed above.
||What are some of those exceptions?
- Spouses of U.S. citizens and members of the military are exempt from some of the general requirements for naturalization. These individuals may file their naturalization applications three years - not five years -- after being admitted as lawful permanent residents.
- Spouses of U.S. citizens who are stationed abroad may not be required to meet any particular residence or physical presence requirement.
- Members of the military who served honorably during certain periods of conflict may be eligible for naturalization even though they have not been admitted as lawful permanent residents and even if they are under the age of 18.
- Members of the military who served honorably for at least one year, at any time, and apply for naturalization within a certain time after their military service, are also exempt from the general residence and physical presence requirements.
||Is there such a thing as "automatic" citizenship for children of US citizens?
- A child born abroad to a US citizen is a US citizen at birth. However, the child's parents are required to file a "Consular Report of Birth Abroad" at the US Embassy or Consular Office in their area.
- A child who is below the age of 18, admitted as a permanent resident and is in the legal and physical custody of the US citizen parent may automatically acquire US citizenship. To obtain evidence of U.S. citizenship, an Application for Certificate of Citizenship, Form N-600, must be filed on behalf of the child. However, in many instances applying for a US passport directly from the Department of State may be more expeditious.
- A child who resides abroad and who is temporarily present in the U.S. based an any lawful admission - even as a tourist or a foreign student -- may be eligible to apply for naturalization while under the age of 18 if he or she has at least one parent who is a citizen of the United States, and the parent (or qualifying grandparent) meets certain physical presence requirements in the United States.
There are exemptions benefiting children of active-duty members of the military stationed abroad.
Naturalization, including the acquisition or derivation of US citizenship, can be a complex area of Immigration Law. Each individual has his own immigration history. To determine whether you are eligible to naturalize or have a claim to US citizenship, it is important to discuss your family and immigration history with an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney.
The information contained in this section is very general and not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice regarding an individual matter. Immigration law is highly specialized and is constantly changing. If you wish information specific to your case, please contact our office. We have assisted US companies and individuals in all aspects of immigration law for more than 20 years.