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Naturalization Requirements

Related topics:

Naturalization is the process by which foreign nationals become U.S. citizens. There are a variety of requirements for naturalization which vary by different circumstances. This page covers the general requirements, and provides a chart comparing the requirements for the main categories.

The general requirements (subject to exceptions) for naturalization include:

  • a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
  • residence in a particular USCIS District prior to filing;
  • an ability to read, write, and speak English;
  • a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government;
  • good moral character;
  • attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and,
  • favorable disposition toward the United States.
Note that all naturalization applicants must demonstrate good moral character, attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution, and favorable disposition toward the United States. However, the other naturalization requirements may be modified or waived for certain applicants, such as spouses of U.S. citizens. Please see the chart below which summarizes the modifications/exceptions for MOST types of applicants (but does NOT cover Children and Citizenship, or certain other special circumstances).

Note that recent changes in immigration law and USCIS procedures now make it easier for U.S. MILITARY PERSONNEL to naturalize. See our page: Naturalization Information for Military Personnel.

In addition, U.S. immigration law grants special Citizenship rights to CHILDREN who are adopted by U.S. Citizens. See our page on Adopted Children and Citizenship.

The following table summarizes the naturalization requirements for MOST types of applicants (but does NOT cover Children and Citizenship, or certain other special circumstances).

 

Type of Applicant
Time Required as Permanent Resident
Continuous Residence
Physical Presence in U.S.
Time in District or State
English & Civics Knowledge
If you:
Have been a Permanent Resident for the past 5
years and have no special circumstances
Note: Over 90% of applicants fall into this category.
5 years
5 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the
United States for trips of 6 months or longer
30 months
3 months
Required
If you:
Are currently married to and living with a U.S. citizen
AND
Have been married to and living with that same U.S.
citizen for the past 3 years
AND
Your spouse has been a U.S. citizen for the past 3 years
3 years
3 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the
United States for trips of 6 months or longer
18 months
3 months Required
If you:
Are in the U.S. Armed Forces (or will be filing your
application within 6 months of an honorable discharge)
AND
Have served for at least 1 year
You must be a
Permanent Resident
on the day of your
interview.
Not Required
Not Required
Not Required Required
If you:
Were in the U.S. Armed Forces for less than 1 year
OR
If you:
Were in the U.S. Armed Forces for 1 year or more, but you
were discharged more than 6 months ago
5 years
5 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the
United States for trips of 6 months or longer
Note: If you were out of the country as part of your
service, this time out of the country does not break your
“continuous residence.” It is treated just like time spent
in the United States.

30 months


Note: Time in the U.S. Armed Forces counts as
time “physically present” in the United States no
matter where you were.

3 months Required
If you:
Performed active duty military service during:
• World War I (November 11, 1916-April 6, 1917);
• World War II (September 1, 1939-December 31, 1946);
• Korea (June 25, 1950-July 1, 1955);
• Vietnam (February 28, 1961-October 15, 1978);
• Persian Gulf (August 2, 1990-April 11, 1991); or
• On or after September 11, 2001.
You are not required
to be a Permanent
Resident.
Note: If you did not
enlist or reenlist in the
United States or its
outlying possessions,
you must be a
Permanent Resident on
the day you file your
application.
Not Required
Not Required
Not Required
Required
If you:
Were married to a U.S. citizen who died during a
period of honorable active duty service in the U.S.
Armed Forces
Note: You must have been married to and living with your
U.S. citizen spouse at the time of his/her death.
You must be
a Permanent
Resident on the day
of your interview.
Not Required
Not Required
Not Required Required
If you:
Are a U.S. national (a non-citizen who owes permanent
allegiance to the United States) AND
Have become a resident of any State AND
Are otherwise qualified for naturalization
You are not required
to be a Permanent
Resident.
The same requirements as any other applicant for naturalization, depending on your qualifications.
Note: Any time you resided in American Samoa or Swains
Island counts the same as the time you resided within a
State of the United States.
3 months or not
required,
depending on your
qualifications.
Required
Required
If you:
Served on a vessel operated by the United States
OR
If you:
Served on a vessel registered in the United States and owned by
U.S. citizens or a U.S. corporation.
5 years
5 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the United
States for trips of 6 months or longer
Note: If you were out of the country while serving on a vessel,
this time out of the country does not break your “continuous
residence.” It is treated just like time spent in the United States.
30 months
Note: Time served on the vessel counts as time
“physically present” in the United States no
matter where you were.
3 months
Required
If you:
Are an employee or an individual under contract to the U.S.
Government
5 years
5 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the United States
for trips of 6 months or longer
Note: An absence from the United States for 1 year or more will
break your “continuous residence.” You may keep your “continuous
residence” if you have had at least 1 year of unbroken “continuous
residence” since becoming a Permanent Resident and you get an
approved N-470 before you have been out of the United States for 1
year.
30 months
Note: Time spent in this type of employment
counts as time “physically present” in the United
States no matter where you are as long as you get
an approved N-470 before you have been out of
the United States for 1 year.
3 months
Required
If you:
Are a person who performs ministerial or priestly functions
for a religious denomination or an interdenominational
organization with a valid presence in the United States
5 years
5 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the United States
for trips of 6 months or longer
Note: An absence from the United States for 1 year or more will
break your “continuous residence.” You may keep your
“continuous residence” if you have had at least 1 year of
unbroken “continuous residence” since becoming a Permanent
Resident and you get an approved N-470 at any time before
applying for naturalization.
30 months
Note: Time spent in this type of employment
counts as time “physically present” in the United
States no matter where you are as long as you get
an approved N-470 before you apply for
naturalization.
3 months
Required
If you:
Are employed by one of the following:
• An American institution of research recognized by the
Attorney General;
• An American-owned firm or corporation engaged in the
development of foreign trade and commerce for the United
States; or
• A public international organization of which the
United States is a member by law or treaty (if the
employment began after you became a Permanent Resident)
5 years
5 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the United
States for trips of 6 months or longer
Note: An absence from the United States for 1 year or more will
break your “continuous residence.” You may keep your
“continuous residence” if you have had at least 1 year of
unbroken “continuous residence” since becoming a Permanent
Resident and you get an approved N-470 before you have been out
of the United States for 1 year.
30 months
3 months
Required
If you:
Have been employed for 5 years or more by a U.S. nonprofit
organization that principally promotes the interests of the
United States abroad through the communications media
5 years
Not Required
Not required
Not required
Required
If you:
Are the spouse of a U.S. citizen who is one of the following:
• A member of the U.S. Armed Forces;
• An employee or an individual under contract to the U.S.
Government;
• An employee of an American institution of research
recognized by the Attorney General;
• An employee of an American-owned firm or corporation
engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce
for the United States;
• An employee of a public international organization of which
the United States is a member by law or treaty; or
• A person who performs ministerial or priestly functions for a
religious denomination or an interdenominational
organization with a valid presence in the United States
AND
Your citizen spouse is working abroad under an employment
contract with the qualifying employer for at least 1 year and will
continue to be so employed at the time you are naturalized.
You must be
a Permanent
Resident at the
time of your
CIS interview
Not Required
Not required
Not required
Required

 

Reader Comments

Naturalization

Greetings,

I am a Russian citizen. I lived in the United States for two years while studying in the university there. After meeting my husband, who is an American citizen, we moved to Japan. At one time I received a Green Card, planning to return to the U.S., but my husband changed jobs and we decided to stay longer. We have been married for 11 years and stayed in Japan for 10 years. Two years ago I overstayed my Green Card, and cannot travel to the U.S. anymore.

How difficult will it be for me to return my permanent resident status?

Being married to a U.S. citizen for over 10 years, do I still have to go back to the U.S. and live there for 3 years to be qualified for naturalization?
Thank you

Returning Resident Status

Regarding regaining U.S. Permanent Resident status, there are generally two approaches. One approach is to apply for "returning resident status." This basically requires proving that one's stay outside of the U.S. beyond the permitted limit was beyond your control. The U.S. State Department defines this type of application as follows: "An application for returning resident status requires evidence of the applicant's continuing, unbroken ties to the United States, that the stay outside the United States was truly beyond the applicant's control and that the intent of the applicant was to always return to the United States."

The other approach is simply to apply through the usual manner for obtaining U.S. Permanent Residency, all over again, such as by having your husband petition for you.

In order to decide between the two, it would be advisable to seek legal counsel.

Regarding naturalization, in general, assuming that you were deemed to still be a U.S. Permanent Resident, "If you: Are currently married to and living with a U.S. citizen AND Have been married to and living with that same U.S.
citizen for the past 3 years AND Your spouse has been a U.S. citizen for the past 3 years", you would still have to meet the "3 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longer", as well as the 18 months of Physical Presence in U.S. requirement, as well as the other requirements for citizenship.

Qualifying for US. citizenship

I am a US citizen by birth and have been married to a foreign national for over 27 years. Both my children are US citizens by birth too. My husband received a green card after we got married and studied and worked at the University of Miami. He received his social security number and worked at the University of Miami as a professor. My husbands green card has no expiration date - it was the kind that was issued at a period when they were "permanent green cards" with no expiration, as we were told at the time. He still has it. He was a resident of Miami for about 3 years (how do I check his residency status to prove residency since we have been gone for so long?) and in the states physically for over 2. After completing his Masters degree he left and we came back to Greece so that he could complete his mandatory military service of two years. Due to family problems (his father's health)we got stuck in Greece. I worked for an American University in Athens and then for The American Community Schools of Athens in Athens for a period of 6 years- does this help my husbands case? After that my son was born with a serious congenital disorder so we continued to stay in Greece. Athough we were planning to return to the US after his military service medical problems prevented this. We are returning to the US this summer and I would like to know if my husband qualifies for US citizenship from the past history. How do I check out his status in the US? Florida residency? We were both residents of Miami when we left. Is his green care which has no expiration date useless now?

6 month adn 2weeks out of the united states would it be a proble

hi my names is roberto my wife did her citizenship she pass and did everything she needed to do. the officer told her that she would have a problem because she was out of the country for
6month and 2 week she show that she did not abonded the country and pay her taxes for that year
but still no letter to go and be sworn in got a phone call from the officer asking the same ? over again why my wife left the country and everything else witch she told him over again so
after the phone call ended he told her that if he had ? he will call her back olso told her
that she will get a letter from them the ? i have is that how long would this letter take and if she showed proof and everything else if she would have any problems thank you for your advise up front once again thank you

Study abroad

Hi

Ive been a permanent resident since Feb of 2006 and while I was in the Univeristy ( here in the US) I went for an study abroad in Europe for 4 months... this was from Jan 29 to may 25 of 2007....i came back to work and finish my school and I graduated on december of 2007 in florida...then I went for an specialization in south america from Jan 21 to May 23 of 2008... I came back and now im in new york working since then. ( so the time for me out cummulative would be 8 months or so)..how ever I was awarded for a master scholarship in portgual...the program would requiere me to leave 4 months this year...Sept to December 2009( i will come back on xmas and to file taxes) and the second part would be Feb to June 2010... I will not stay over 6 months in a single exit or in the same year....

my question is if i decide to take the scholarship....will this affect my continous residence for citizenship purposes even though i leave for only 4 months at the time?

Thanks for your time.

A.

Search for H1B Visa Employers

You can search for "H1B Visa Employers" using this database, which was compiled by Antao & Chuang, Attorneys at Law from government sources. This database identifies those U.S. employers who have filed for H-1B visas in the past, or who have at least started the process by filing for the LCA. If you find an employer you are interested in, you can then contact them to inquire as to whether they have any current job openings in your field. Please tell your friends about this valuable resource.

Use this form to search for H1B Visa employers.

"FMG Friendly" Employers

Foreign Medical Graduates ("FMGs") should be aware that there are "FMG Friendly" employers, and "FMG Unfriendly" employers. This database (compiled by Antao & Chuang, Attorneys at Law from government sources) identifies those U.S. employers who have filed for H-1B visas for foreign medical graduates in the past (or at least started the process by filing for the LCA), and who can therefore be deemed "FMG Friendly". Please tell your colleagues about this valuable resource.

Use this form to search for "FMG Friendly" employers in a given state.

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