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A foreign national can obtain citizenship after fulfilling the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This procedure is also known as “NATURALIZATION”. A permanent resident alien, who has a green card for at least four years and nine months, is eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. However, a permanent resident alien who obtained a green card by marrying a U.S. citizen and remains married to and resides with that US citizen, can apply for citizenship in three years.

In order to become a citizen, a permanent resident alien must have filed his Federal and State tax returns for the past five years, must not have been convicted of any crimes, must be able to read, write, and understand English, and must answer questions about U.S. government and history at the citizenship interview. However, a waiver of these requirements may be granted. The approximate waiting period for the citizenship interview is twelve to fifteen months.

An individual can obtain a waiver of these requirements if the individual on the date of filing:

  1. has been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for periods totaling 15 years or more and is over 55 years of age;
  2. has been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for periods totaling 20 years or more and is over 50 years of age; or
  3. has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects the applicant's ability to learn English.

Once an individual passes the test, he or she must take the oath of allegiance swearing to support the Constitution and obey the laws of the United States, renounce any foreign allegiance, and agree to bear arms for the armed forces of the United States or perform services for the government of the United States when required.

Requirements for US Citizenship are as follows:

Lawful entry as Permanent Resident: The Alien has to be admitted to the US on a Permanent Status prior to becoming eligible for American citizenship. The one exception is if the Alien has served the U.S. army at the time of war she/he does not require to become permanent resident first but she/he should be in the U.S. at the time of induction or enlistment.

•Continuous Residence: Continuous residence in the U.S. for at least five years prior to filing a petition for naturalization and three years for spouse of citizens. The stay is not considered as "continuous" if an Alien stays out of the U.S. for more than six months continuously. The Alien can file a naturalization petition three months before she/he completes the required continuous residence period. Spouse of US citizens can file for citizenship if they have resided continuously in the US for 3 years immediately preceding the filing of the application for citizenship.

Three Months Residence immediately preceding the filing the Petition in the state in which the petition is filed: Since the naturalization petition can be filed three months before the completion of continuous residence, the three-month state residence requirement is never a barrier to filing the citizenship application. However the Alien has to demonstrate that the state residence requirement has been met at the time of his/her interview if the citizenship application was filed earlier.

Physical Presence: Alien must be physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the period of continuous residence (two and a half years and one and half years for spouses of US citizens). Alien should keep a record of each and every trip outside the U.S. with departure and return dates. Sometimes the examiner counts the days of physical presence to determine continuous residence.

Read, write, and speak good English: Alien must read, write and speak ordinary English in order to be eligible for naturalization. The examiner tests this ability when the Alien gives the examination for naturalization. The examiner decides about Alien’s ability by his/her answers to normal questions. Reading and writing skills are tested through the Federal Textbook on Citizenship. Disabled people who are not capable of complying with this requirement because of any physical or mental disability may be exempted from this requirement. People who are over fifty years of age and have lived in the U.S. for at least 20 years as a lawful permanent resident and people who are over fifty-five years of age and have lived in the U.S. for at least a total of 15 years are also not required to fulfill this requirement.

Knowledge of U.S. History & Understanding of Fundamentals of U.S. Government: To test this ability, the examiner asks questions about U.S. history and Government fundamentals at the time of interview. Normally an Alien is asked around six to ten questions from a list of 100 questions, but the number of questions may vary from district to district. Aliens who are exempted from the English education prerequisite are also supposed to fulfill this requirement but they can give the test in the language of their own choice. Exemptions:- Persons who are physically unable to comply and persons who are unable to comply due to developmental disability or mental impairment.

Good Moral Character and Attachment to the Principles of U.S. Constitution: All naturalization applicants must comply with this requirement. There is no exception to this requirement. Aliens demonstrate their good moral character during their five or three years of continuous residence. Aliens indulging in alien smuggling, prostitution or other criminal activities are not considered to be of a good moral character. If an Alien is on parole, probation or under suspended sentence, the naturalization will not be granted until he/she completes parole, probation or suspended sentence.

Continuous Residence until getting naturalized:An Alien has to be present in the United States from the day he files the petition for naturalization and till the time he gets admitted as a citizen. It should be noted that continuous residence is not the same as physical presence in the US.

Should have completed 18 years of age at the time of filing for Naturalization:Alien should have completed 18 years of age at the time he/she files a petition for naturalization. There are some exceptions for the children of other Aliens who can be naturalized with their parents.

 







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