Immigrants to the United States may be able to become U.S. citizens through the naturalization process. Immigrants seeking to become United States citizens must meet certain eligibility requirements set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Special provisions, however, may exempt certain applicants from some of the requirements. Foreign nationals who achieve naturalization receive the protections, rights, and responsibilities afforded to American citizens.
The Path Toward Citizenship
Although there are exceptions for people with certain circumstances like spouses and military members, to obtain citizenship through naturalization, applicants must generally meet specific eligibility requirements. Applicants must be:
- at least 18-years-old
- lawful permanent residents for a minimum of five years
- able to speak, read, and write basic English
- of good moral character
- willing to take the Oath of Allegiance
There are also travel restrictions and residency requirements for immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship. Applicants cannot have been out of the U.S. for 30 or more months in the last five years and they cannot have taken any trips outside the U.S. that lasted one year or more. Immigrants seeking American citizenship must live in the state or districts in which they submit their applications for at minimum, three months.
The Interview and Exam
Before determining whether to grant citizenship, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services interviews applicants. USCIS officers ask about applicants’ backgrounds and applications to ensure all information is accurate.
Citizenship applicants must also pass a two-part naturalization test. The first portion of the test covers English reading and writing skills. During the reading section, applicants are asked to read sentences aloud, and USCIS officers look for conveyance that they understand the sentences’ meanings. For the written section, applicants are asked to write down a sentence that is read aloud to them by the immigration officer. The second portion tests applicants’ knowledge of U.S. government and history. Applicants must answer six of the 10 questions correctly to pass the test; although, they are permitted a one-time retake of any portion they did not pass at a later date.
Taking the Oath of Allegiance
Once approved for citizenship, the last step of the naturalization process is to take an oath of allegiance to the U.S. Through the oath, soon-to-be naturalized citizens renounce the ties to their former countries and declare their support, faith, and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution. They also declare they will take up arms in support of the U.S. if required by law.