Determine Your Eligibility for U.S. Citizenship
There are four (4) basic requirements to become a U.S. citizen. You must:
1. Be 18 years of age or older.
2. Satisfy one of two requirements (A or B):
A. Have lived as a Legal Permanent Resident in the United States for five (5) years AND:
- You must not have left the United States for any period longer than 6 months.
EXAMPLE: Hector has lived in the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident for 7 years, but 3 years ago he took a business trip to Buenos Aires for 8 months. Result: The five-year period started all over again the day he returned and he must wait 2 more years to apply.
- You must have been physically present in the United States for a total of at least 30 months.
EXAMPLE: Maria has been a Legal Permanent Resident for 6 years, but each year she has taken two 4-month trips out of the country. Result: She has been physically present in the United States for just 4 months a year, or 24 months total. She must remain here for another 6 months to apply.
B. Have lived as a Legal Permanent Resident for three (3) years AND:
- Your spouse must have been a citizen for the 3 years.
- You must have lived with your spouse for the last 3 years.
- You must not have left the United States for any period longer than 6 months
- You must have been physically present here for a total of 18 months.
3. Be a person of “good moral character.”
How does the USCIS determine good moral character? It looks principally at criminal records and honesty in the application process. Certain crimes or offenses can lead to denial of your application. Examples include:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI or DWI)
- Domestic violence
- Involvement with prostitution
- Lying to gain immigration benefits or prevent deportation or removal
- Failing to pay court-ordered child support
- Failing to complete any probation, parole, or sentence before applying for naturalization
If you have been arrested or convicted of any crime, you must report it on your application – even if it has been removed from your record or if it occurred before your 18th birthday. You must also send certified copies of the arrest report, court disposition, sentencing, and any other relevant documents. If you are not truthful on your application or during your interview, USCIS may deny your application.
These offenses will not necessarily prevent you from becoming a citizen, but they may require you to hire a lawyer. You should seek help from a local organization if you have any concerns about this requirement.
4. Demonstrate knowledge of History and Government of the United States and be able to read, write, and understand English.
There are 3 important exemptions for English testing based on age and time as a Legal Permanent Resident. You do not have to take an English test if:
- You are at least 50 and have been a Permanent Resident for at least 20 years OR
- You are at least 55 and have been a Permanent Resident for at least 15 years OR
- You are at least 65 and have been a Permanent Resident for at least 20 years.
If you do not have to take the English test, you must bring an interpreter to the interview.
Knowledge of Civics (history & government)
You must correctly answer 6 out of 10 questions on the civics test in order to pass. You will be required to study from a list of 100 possible questions.
However, if you are at least 65 and have been a Permanent Resident for at least 20 years, you can study from a designated list of just 20 questions.
If you have certain medical conditions, you may not have to take either exam. A currently licensed medical professional must complete Form N-648 (Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions) if you believe you have a medical condition that warrants an exemption.
Information provided by the NALEO Education Fund