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Getting Citizenship in the U.S.

Getting citizenship in the United States involves four basic steps. That may sound simple, but it is actually rather complicated. The road from permanent resident to citizen takes years, and even the application process for citizenship can take months or years.

Become Eligible for United States Citizenship

Before you can apply for citizenship, you will need to spend some time in the U.S. to meet certain residency and other requirements. You must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have permanent resident status (have a green card), and make your primary home here, for at least five years (with a few exceptions)
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 2.5 years of the five years before applying
  • Not stay outside the United for more than one year at a time
  • Live in the district where you are filing your application for a minimum of three months
  • Have good moral character, meaning you have not been involved in any criminal activity for at least five years

Once you meet these requirements, you can begin the application process for getting your U.S. citizenship.

Submit Your Citizenship Application

You should file your application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Make sure that you have filled it out correctly and included a copy of your green card, two passport-style photos, and application fee(s). Other required documents vary based on your individual circumstances. A knowledgeable immigration  lawyer can help you make sure you get it right.

USCIS will investigate your entire background and immigration history. If it finds any problems, such as criminal activity or a permanent residence in another country, it may revoke your green card and deport you.

It can take months before you will know if you can move on to the next step.

Get Fingerprinted and Attend an Interview

If you pass the USCIS review, you will receive notice(s) of appointments for fingerprinting and an interview. If you skip either appointment, USCIS may deny or delay your application.

The interview is really a combination of tests. Your interviewer will evaluate your English speaking skills and test your English writing and reading skills. Your interview will also include a test of U.S. history and civics.

After your interview, the USCIS will contact you to let you know its decision on your citizenship status. If the decision is in your favor, you will move on to the final step.


This is where you finally get your U.S. citizenship. You will take an oath of allegiance to the United States and receive a certificate of naturalization. You will now have all the rights of a U.S. citizen.

The citizenship process is long and potentially complicated. An attorney familiar with immigration law can help you through any problems or delays.