U.S. citizenship is acquired by birth or through naturalization. A person is a U.S. citizen at birth if they are born in the U.S. and subject to its jurisdiction. Under certain circumstances, children born outside of the U.S. of U.S. citizen parents is also a U.S. citizen at birth. Citizenship can also be acquired by naturalization. To be eligible for naturalization an applicant must meet the following basic requirements:
- Has been admitted as a lawful permanent resident.
- Is at least 18 years old.
- Has continuously resided in the U.S. following admission as a permanent resident for at least five years immediately preceding the filing of a naturalization petition. Spouses of U.S. citizens, however, are eligible for naturalization after three years of marriage. If an alien was married to the U.S. citizen before becoming a permanent resident, the period of continuous residence starts upon admission as a permanent resident.
- Has resided for 3 months immediately preceding the filing of the petition in the state where the petition is filed.
- Has been physically present in the U.S. for an aggregate total of one-half of the period of continuous residence.
- Is able to read and write English.
- Has knowledge of U.S. history and government.
- Has been of “good moral character” for at least the period required for continuous residence.
- There are special processes for children, and spouses of U.S. citizens assigned temporarily overseas by the U.S. government.
In addition, there are special circumstances when physical presence and residence are waived. One example is when a U.S. citizen is transferred abroad by a particular category of employer thereby allowing the accompanying permanent resident spouse to apply for expedited citizenship.
Please see the following “Guide to Naturalization” posted by USCIS for answers to your general questions about the naturalization process.