Naturalization is the process by which permanent residents can obtain U.S. citizenship. In some cases, dual citizenship may be retained. Naturalized citizens share practically all of the same rights as citizens born in the United States.
Naturalization is the process by which permanent residents can obtain U.S. citizenship status. Since naturalized citizens share practically all of the same rights as citizens born in the United States, naturalization is the last important step in the immigration process.
The Constitution gives many rights to citizens, including the right to vote; hold a U.S. passport; and receive U.S. government protection and assistance when abroad. However, citizenship comes with many responsibilities as well, including a promise by the applicant to give up prior allegiances to other countries; to support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States; to swear allegiance to the United States; and to serve the country when required. Citizens also have a responsibility to participate in the political process by registering to vote and serving on a jury, if called upon.
Applicants for naturalization generally must fulfill several requirements, which relate to their age, residence, physical presence, and good moral character. First, applicants for naturalization must be at least 18 years of age. In addition, applicants must have maintained a continuous residence in the United States for five years since obtaining permanent resident status (or for three years if the applicant is the spouse of a U.S. citizen). Periods of stay outside of the U.S. for six months or more may break this continuity of residence, unless the applicant can prove that they did not abandon their residence. Further, applicants must provide evidence of continuous physical presence in the United States for at least two and a half of the required five years (or one and a half of the required three years). Applicants must also demonstrate good moral character, which is determined by an examination of both the applicant’s general conduct, as well as police record.
After a completed Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the applicant will be scheduled for an interview. At this interview, the applicant will be required to pass a test of written and spoken English, as well as demonstrate an understanding of United States history and government. The naturalization process is finalized with an oath ceremony, whereby the applicant pledges allegiance to the United States.