Citizenship Through Naturalization
Naturalization is the process in which a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a United States Citizen. In order to naturalize, a Lawful Permanent Resident has to meet certain basic requirements in the United States Immigration Law.
Basic Requirement for Naturalization
An Applicant must :
- Be a Lawful Permanent Resident for at least five years (Three years for spouses of United States Citizen)
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have good moral character.
- Be able to pass an English exam (ability to read,write and speak English).
- Be able to pass a test on United States history and government
- Have continuous residence in the United States for at least five years (three years for Spouses of United States Citizen);
- Have been physically present in the United States for at least half of the five year period (If a spouse of a United States citizen its half of the three years and
- Swear loyalty to the United States by taking the oath of Allegiance.
Lawful Permanent Resident Status
An Applicant have must been lawfully admitted as a permanent resident and must have maintained that status. An important exception to the rule that only Lawful Permanent Residents can apply for Naturalization exists for aliens who served honorably in active duty with the United States armed forces during certain hostilities (i.e., certain times of war). They can be naturalized in many instances without becoming Lawful Permanent Residents.
An Applicant must be at least 18 years old to apply for and to become a naturalized Citizen. Special rules apply to minor unmarried Lawful Permanent Resident children of United States Citizens.
Good Moral Character
All Naturalization Applicants must demonstrate good moral character for the required residency period prior to applying for Naturalization. For most Applicants the period is five years, but if the Applicant is married to a United States Citizen, the period is reduced to three years.
However,United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may consider events before the five or three year period when deciding if an Applicant has good moral character.
Naturalization English Language Test
Applicants are required to demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language.
Certain Applicants, because of age or disability, have different English and civics requirements.
Naturalization Civic/History Test
An Applicant has to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history , principle and form of government of the United states also known as “civics”. There is ” special consideration ” in testing on United States history and government for Applicants who, on the date of filing their Naturalization Applications, are over 65 years old and have been Lawful Permanent Residents for at least 20 years.
Exemptions For Testing based on age & Disability
- If an Applicant is over 50 years old and have lived in the United States as a Permanent Resident for a period of at least 20 years, such Applicant do not have to take the English test,but do have to take the civics/history test in his or her native language.
- If an Applicant is over 55 years old and have lived in the United States as a Permanent Resident for a period of at least 15 years, such Applicant do not have to take the English test but do have to take the civics test in his native language.
- If an Applicant is over 65 years old and have lived in the United States as a Permanent Resident for a period of at least 20 years, such Applicant do not have to take the English test, but do have to take a simpler version of the civics test in his or her native language.
- If an Applicant have a physical or developmental disability or a mental defect so severe that it prevents the Applicant from acquiring or demonstrating the required knowledge of English and civics, the Applicants may be eligible for an exception to these requirements by filing a “Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions”
Residence in the United States
An Applicant must have made the United States his/her home for five years prior to applying for Naturalization. In addition, the Applicant must have lived in the USCIS district or state where he or she files the petition for at least three months.
Exceptions to the five-years Residency Requirement
The spouse of a United States Citizen only needs to have lived in the United States for three years as a Lawful Permanent Resident. Such Applicant must have been married to the same United States Citizen for three years and the United States Citizen spouse must have been a Citizen for the entire three years. The marriage must be valid and the couple must have lived together for the three years immediately before the date of the filing of the Application and Naturalization interview. In the event of a divorce the Applicant would have to wait five years before qualifying for Naturalization.
Physical Presence in the United States
An Applicant must have been physically present in the United States for at least half (30 months) of the five-years residence period discussed above. The spouse of a United States Citizen only needs to have been physically in the United States for half of 3 years (18 months) .
Discontinuity of Residence (Abandonment of Residence for Naturalization Purpose)
An applicant must show that he or she has continuously maintained his/her residence in the United States for the five-years or three years period before applying for Naturalization. This is an issue for Applicants who have spent long period of time outside the United States. Absence of more than six month outside the U.S may give rise to a rebuttal Presumption of discontinuity of residence while absence of One year an above break the period of Continuity of residence for Naturalization purpose.
There are exceptions for people in the military, certain Employees and contractors of the United States government, certain people working for American corporations and public international organizations doing business abroad and certain religious workers.
Where a Naturalization Applicant is found to have disrupted the continuity of his/her residence because of absent for one year or longer, he or she will not qualify for Naturalization. He or She must wait four years and one day (or two years and one day if married to a United States Citizen) from his/her return to the United States to reapply for Naturalization.
Attachment to the Principles of the Constitution
All Applicants for Naturalization must be willing to support and defend the United States and its Constitution. The Applicant declares his/her “attachment” to the United States and its Constitution when s/he takes the Oath of Allegiance.
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