The United States has a long history of welcoming immigrants from all parts of the world. During the last decade, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) welcomed more than 6.8 million naturalized citizens into the fabric of our nation. Thus far in fiscal year 2010, approximately 495,232 individuals have been naturalized.
Deciding to become a U.S. citizen can be a very important milestone in an immigrant's life. Individuals must demonstrate a commitment to the unifying principles that bind us as Americans and in return, will enjoy many of the rights and privileges that are fundamental to U.S. citizenship.
In general, an individual over the age of 18 seeking to become a citizen of the United States must apply for naturalization by filing an Application for Naturalization, Form N-400. To be eligible for naturalization, an applicant must fulfill certain eligibility requirements set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
These general eligibility requirements specify that the applicant must:
Be at least 18 years of age
Be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder)
Have resided in the United States for at least five years
Have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months
Be a person of good moral character
Be able to speak, read, write and understand the English language
Have knowledge of U.S. government and history
Be willing and able to take the Oath of Allegiance
Special naturalization provisions exempt certain applicants from one or more of the general requirements for naturalization. Spouses of U.S. citizens and members of the military constitute the main categories of individuals who are exempt from some of the general requirements for naturalization.
The majority of individuals naturalizing as spouses of U.S. citizens may do so three years after being admitted as lawful permanent residents, rather than the five years prescribed under the general provisions.
Spouses of U.S. citizens stationed abroad may not be required to meet any particular residence or physical presence requirement.
Members of the military who served honorably during certain periods of conflict may be eligible for naturalization even though they have not been admitted as lawful permanent residents and even if they are under the age of 18.
Members of the military who served honorably for at least one year, at any time, and apply for naturalization within a certain time after their military service, are also exempt from the general residence and physical presence requirements.
In addition to these naturalization provisions, the INA also provides for the naturalization of children who are under the age of 18. A child under the age of 18, who is a lawful permanent resident residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of a U.S. citizen parent, may automatically acquire U.S. citizenship.
To obtain evidence of U.S. citizenship, an Application for Certificate of Citizenship, Form N-600, must be filed on behalf of the child. A child who is residing abroad, who is temporarily present in the U.S. based an any lawful admission, may be eligible to apply for naturalization while under the age of 18 if he or she has at least one parent who is a citizen of the United States, and the parent (or qualifying grandparent) meets certain physical presence requirements in the United States.
All persons filing an Application for Naturalization who have submitted a complete application along with all required documents will be scheduled for an interviewed by a USCIS officer. Those applicants found qualified are scheduled for an oath ceremony before a judge or an officer delegated the authority by the Director of USCIS to administer the Oath of Allegiance. Applicants do not become U.S. citizens until they have taken the Oath.
Total Naturalized Citizens: Fiscal Years 2000-2009
2009 743,715 2004 537,151
2008 1,046,539 2003 463,204
2007 660,477 2002 573,708
2006 702,589 2001 608,205
2005 604,280 2000 888,788
For additional information on USCIS and its programs, visit www.uscis.gov.