Acquiring US Citizenship (Form N-400, Form 1551)

An applicant for naturalization must be 18 years old at the time of filing the application and must demonstrate his or her ability to read, write, and speak words ordinarily used in English. The applicant must also demonstrate his or her knowledge and understanding of United States history and government.

The applicant must have resided continuously in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years immediately preceding the date of filing his or her application for naturalization and must have been physically present for at least half of that time. Applicants who are spouses of United States citizens must have resided within the United States for at least three years in lawful permanent resident status (during half of which time the applicant spouse was physically present in the United States), and during the three years immediately preceding the date of filing his or her application must have been living in marital union with the citizen spouse. The citizen spouse must have been a citizen during this entire three-year period.

The applicant must have resided for at least three months within the state or INS District where he or she filed the application. The applicant must reside continuously within the United States from the date of filing the application until he or she is admitted as a citizen.

The applicant must remain a person of good moral character and be committed to the principles of the Constitution during the periods described above. The applicant must not otherwise be barred as a subversive, a member of the Communist Party or other totalitarian party of the United States, a person convicted of deserting or evading service in the United States Armed Forces, a person who was relieved from Selective Service based on alienage, or an alien who is the subject of pending removal proceedings and the applicant must also be legally competent so that he or she is capable of understanding the significance of the naturalization proceedings and assuming the obligations of citizenship.

The Application Process:
Information regarding the citizenship process can be found at the USCIS website. This website is particularly helpful because it contains not only detailed information regarding who is eligible to apply, but also provides the necessary application and a guidebook on naturalization with a detailed document checklist and a chart listing various residency and testing requirements based on age.

The following documents should be submitted to the USCIS office having jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence:

  1. Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization);
  2. Two photographs;
  3. Proof of lawful permanent residence status for the requisite period of time (copy of Form 1551); and
  4. Evidence of having filed and paid taxes.

Fingerprints will also be collected by the USCIS in order to complete the application process. Applicants will be scheduled for a separate appointment to complete their fingerprint processing.

The Naturalization Interview:
After the application is filed, the applicant will be scheduled for an interview where he or she will be tested on his or her knowledge of the English language and United States history and government principles, as well as the applicant’s good moral character and commitment to the principles of the United States Constitution. Review books can be purchased at local bookstores, or the applicant can enroll in a citizenship class.