Citizenship Eligibility for Citizenship Through Naturalization

Naturalization is the process of a foreign citizen being granted United States citizenship. Before you can apply for citizenship with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you must first meet all the requirements. This article will help you determine whether you are eligible to submit an Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) with the USCIS.

Benefits of Naturalization and U.S. Citizenship

The U.S. Certificate of Naturalization
A legal or lawful permanent resident (also known as a "green card" holder) has only a limited set of rights and benefits as an immigrant. A naturalized person becomes a U.S. citizen and enjoys additional rights and benefits, such as the ability:
  • to vote in elections;
  • to run for public office;
  • to apply for government jobs;
  • to obtain a U.S. passport;
  • to participate in federal programs as U.S. citizens.

U.S. Citizenship Through Birth

If your one or both of your parents are U.S. citizens, you may have an automatic or easier path to citizenship.
  • Birth in the United States

    Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that people who are born in the United States are citizens as a result of their birth within the country. "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
  • Birth abroad to at least one parent who is a U.S. Citizen

    Those who are born internationally to parents which includes at least one U.S. citizen will usually qualify.

Citizenship Through Naturalization

The process of becoming a citizen through naturalization usually begins by being a lawful permanent resident. Exceptions include a non-citizen who is a member of the military, who may qualify for an expedited process. The specific requirements for naturalization can vary and there are exceptions, waivers and special cases. But in general, to be eligible to begin the process you must:
  • Be 18 years of age or older at the time the Application for Naturalization is filed;
  • Be a lawful permanent resident / green card holder (usually for 5 years or 3 years being married to a U.S. citizen and still living in marital harmony);
  • Have been physically present in the U.S., prior to filing, for at least 50% of the time required (5 or 3 years) with an absence of no longer than 6 months;
  • Have had continuous residence in the U.S. prior to filing;
  • Have lived for at least 3 months in the state or USCIS district of application;
  • Prove that you have mastered basic skills of reading, writing and speaking the English language – exceptions exist for people who are (i) age 50 or older with 20 or more years as a lawful permanent resident, and (ii) people age 55 or older with 15 or more years as a lawful permanent resident;
  • Possess a basic understanding of U.S. civics, history and government (exceptions apply to people over age 65);
  • Demonstrate that you have exhibited good moral character and conduct during the time you have resided in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident.
  • Be able to fulfill civic duties and take the Oath of Allegiance.

If you are able to answer "yes" to all of the requirements above, you're probably ready to begin the second step – preparing your application and beginning the process of U.S citizenship through naturalization.
Immigration Law
Naturalization, Citizenship
About author
Michael Wechsler
Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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