Naturalization Process Steps

Under U.S. Immigration Law, "Naturalization" refers to the process by which a foreigner becomes a United States citizen.

There are several different paths through which foreigners can become citizens of the United States, and other than being born on U.S. soil, none of them are particularly easy.

However, if you are willing to jump through the hoops, and pay the court fees and legal expenses, it is usually possible to become a U.S. citizen. This is especially true if you are willing to serve in the U.S. military, or if you have professional or vocational skills that are in high demand.

LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor, , Attorney at Law

There are a few baseline requirements for becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States. If you are applying for citizenship on your own behalf, you must be at least 18 years of age. You also must be a lawful permanent resident of the United States (and gaining that status can be a long and drawn-out process, as well), and must have lived in the United States for at least 5 years, or 3 years if you are married to a U.S. citizen. You can submit your application for naturalization up to 90 days before meeting the residency requirement. Read more


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Understanding Good Moral Character for a Citizenship Test

The applicant must also show that they are of "good moral character." Although the law does not make it explicitly clear what "good moral character" means, the general rule is that, if you don't have a criminal record, you will probably be found to be of good moral character. You must also have filed state and federal income tax returns for the last five years.

Applicants for naturalization must also take and pass a citizenship test. This test contains several questions about American history, the structure of the United States government, and the country's founding principles. They must then swear an oath of allegiance to the United States, in which they renounce their citizenship of any other country. However, most countries will not recognize this renunciation, so, as a practical matter, dual citizenship is possible in the United States.

Becoming a United States citizen can take many years, and is never easy. However, in some cases, there are faster paths to citizenship. For example, workers who have skills that are in high demand by the military can get a faster path to citizenship if they serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, and receive an honorable discharge. This is especially true if you served in a combat zone. This option is not available to people who are in the United States illegally.

Before you even think about applying for United States citizenship, you should speak with an immigration attorney, who should be able to determine, fairly quickly, whether or not you are eligible. You should then proceed according to the advice of your attorney.

If you do not do this, you might spend months, or even years, going through the naturalization process, only to find out that you were ineligible, wasting a huge amount of time and money.

A qualified immigration attorney can also make the process easier. American immigration law is very complicated, and an immigration attorney can guide you through the whole thing, ensuring that you have the best possible chance of successfully becoming a U.S. citizen.

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