An applicant for naturalization must fulfill certain requirements set forth in the INA concerning age, lawful admission and residence in the United States. While the following list is not exhaustive, general naturalization provisions specify that a foreign national:
- must be at least 18 years of age
- must be a U.S. legal permanent resident (LPR)
- must have resided in the country continuously for at least five years
- must be able to speak, read, and write the English language
- must have knowledge of the U.S. government and history
- must have good moral character
Special provisions of naturalization law exempt certain applicants from some of these general requirements. The primary types of applicants who may, under certain conditions, be eligible for specific exemptions include spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and persons with qualifying military service in the Armed Forces of the United States.
Every applicant for naturalization who is 18 years of age or older must file an N-400 Application for Naturalization. All applicants who meet the preliminary documentary requirements must be interviewed by officers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to determine their eligibility to naturalize. In most cases, the officer verifies the applicant's knowledge and understanding of English and the history and government of the United States. Qualified applicants are then scheduled for an oath ceremony before a judge or before an officer with authority delegated by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
In our next article we will discuss circumstances and conditions where an individual may be ineligible to apply for naturalization.