Being a Citizen of The United States of America

U.S. citizenship gives a person as many rights as the U.S. has to offer; for example, the right to vote in U.S. state and federal elections, petition for family members to immigrate to the U.S., and live abroad without losing the right to return. For these reasons, citizenship is not easy to obtain.


Unless you are among the lucky few who qualify automatically for U.S. Citizenship by Birth or Through Parents, you will need to apply to become a U.S. citizen, through a process known as naturalization.

U.S. Citizenship Criteria

If you are interested in applying for U.S. citizenship, first make sure that all of the following apply to you:

Permanent Resident

You have had a lawful permanent resident status for at least five years

Continuous Resident

You have lived in the U.S. continuously for the five years preceding your application.

18 Years Old

You have lived in the district or state for at least three months and are 18 years old.

Moral Character

You have good moral character and haven't committed crimes, failed to pay taxes or child support.

Tests You’ll Need To Pass

After submitting your application (as described below), you'll also need to be ready to pass two exams. These will be held during your citizenship interview, at a USCIS office. If you don't pass one or both of these tests the first time, you'll normally get one more chance, typically within 60 to 90 days of the first interview.

They are meant to test whether: You are able to speak, read, and write in English and You are able to pass a test covering U.S. history and government.

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Immigration History

This is not a risk-free process. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will carefully investigate your background. If it discovers something wrong—for example, that you used fraud to get your green card or abandoned your residency by making your home outside the United States—it can strip you of your green card and send you out of the country.

What Is The Application Process?

In order to apply, you will need to complete a citizenship application on USCIS Form N-400 (see Filling Out USCIS Form N-400) and send it in with a copy of your green card, the required photos, and the appropriate fee. After filing your application, you will probably wait many months, depending on backlogs at your local USCIS office. 

First, you will be called in for a fingerprint (biometrics) appointment, and later an interview appointment. At the interview, a USCIS officer will test your English language ability (unless you fit within an exception) and your knowledge of U.S. history and government.

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