To become a citizen of the United States, two primary methods are available: citizenship through birth and naturalization. If one or both of a child's parents are U.S. citizens, or a child is born in the U.S. or U.S. territory, the child may either be automatically granted citizenship upon birth, or can apply for citizenship if the parents meet the applicable residency requirements. For those who do not qualify for citizenship, including people who immigrated to the U.S. as adults and received a Green Card, citizenship may be available through naturalization. Becoming a U.S. citizen grants a person all the rights and obligations that are available to someone who was born in the United States or to U.S. citizen parents.

Benefits of U.S. Citizenship

When a person is granted U.S. citizenship, the rights afforded to them will be permanent. Citizenship can only be stripped away in highly unusual scenarios, such as when a person is found to have falsified information on a naturalization application. As a citizen of the United States, a person cannot be deported or forced to leave the country, and they will be able to continue living in the community where they have resettled or other areas of the U.S. throughout the rest of their life.

Eligibility Requirements for Naturalization


  • A person must be an adult over the age of 18;

  • A person must be a permanent resident of the United States with a valid immigration status;

  • A person must meet certain residency requirements. In most cases, immigrants must maintain a permanent residence in the U.S. for 5 years or more. A person who obtained a Green Card after marrying a U.S. citizen must live in the United States for at least 3 years. A person will also need to meet "continuous presence" requirements, in which they must not have been outside the United States for more than six months during their period of permanent residence;

  • A person must demonstrate positive moral character, which generally means that they have not been convicted of criminal offenses that would disqualify them from becoming a U.S. citizen;

  • A person must pass a citizenship test that will demonstrate that they can speak, read, write, and understand English and that they have a knowledge of U.S. history and the structure and functions of the country's government; and

  • A person must be willing to swear an oath of allegiance to the United States, which states that they will be committed to furthering the country's goals and will uphold the laws and principles of the United States Constitution.

Each naturalization case is unique, and some of the general requirements may differ depending on a person's individual situation.

USCIS published a video on how to prepare for your naturalization interview:


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