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» Citizenship & Naturalization

What is the U.S. residence requirement for becoming a citizen?

A person more than 18 years old who has been a lawful permanent resident for five years (or three years, if married to a U.S. citizen) is eligible to apply for citizenship. In addition, the individual must have been a resident of the state where applying for at least three months. Applications may be filed three months before the eligibility date.

English and U.S. civics tests: Most applicants must be able to speak, read, and write basic English, as well as demonstrate basic knowledge of U.S. history and government. People who are more than 50 years old and who have been a permanent resident for 20 years or more, or who are over 55 and have been a permanent resident for 15 years, may take the examination in whatever language they choose. All other applicants must read, write, and speak basic English. People with physical or developmental disabilities or mental impairment may apply for a waiver of the test requirements.

Does marriage to a U.S. citizen automatically grant U.S. citizenship?

Not after 1924. While a U.S. citizen petitions for his or her spouse to become a lawful permanent resident, in order to become a U.S. citizen, permanent residents must apply themselves. In some cases, children under 18 automatically become U.S. citizens upon the naturalization of their parents.

Reasons to Naturalize

  • S. citizens can vote, serve on juries, hold political office, and qualify for government jobs. U.S. citizens travel freely, whereas green card holders may lose their residency if they spend long periods of time abroad.
  • S. citizens cannot be deported.
  • S. citizens may petition for their parents, married sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters to become permanent residents in the United States. Also, their close relatives may immigrate more quickly.
  • S. citizens may be subject to lower estate taxes.
  • S. citizens who retire abroad receive full Social Security benefits, whereas permanent residents receive only 50 percent.

Reasons Not to Naturalize

  • In some cases, individuals may lose their native nationality and overseas property rights or titles of nobility.
  • When reviewing the applications for naturalization, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may discover past fraud, criminal convictions, or other reasons to begin deportation proceedings.
  • Having made a false claim to citizenship, such as voting in a governmental election, can result in deportation.

What is naturalization?

Naturalization is the process by which a legal permanent resident (green card holder) becomes a U.S. citizen.

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