Naturalization is the legal process for a person who is a national or foreign citizen to become a citizen of the United States of America. Congress has passed a variety of immigrations acts, such as the Immigration and Nationality Act, which outlines the criterion for becoming a United States citizen. If you are not born in the United States or if you are not the child of a United States citizen you may achieve United States citizenship through naturalization. The first step in the naturalization process is to become a permanent resident of the United States. Permanent residency can be achieved through several methods including: family petition, an investor petition, an employment petition, employer sponsored application, asylum or the immigration lottery process.

Becoming A Citizen

Once you have been a lawful permanent resident for five years, you may apply for United States citizenship or naturalization. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, this period is shortened to three years, or four years if you achieved permanent residency through political asylum.

You must also meet the following criterion to gain United States citizenship. An Applicant must:

  • Be of high moral character
  • Understand the basic tenets of United States history and government
  • Have a favorable attitude toward the United States of America. A favorable attitude can be defined as a willingness to defend the United States of America. (Certain persons such as felons may not be allowed to apply for naturalization.)
  • Must know how to speak, read and write in English. (There may be certain exceptions made to this provision)
  • Must reside in the United States of America for at least five years prior to applying. There may be exceptions to the residency requirements which should be discussed with an Immigration Attorney. If you have been living in the United States since January 1, 1972, under the Code of Federal Regulations at 8 CFR 1259, you may be able to become a permanent resident even if you were an illegal immigrant.
  • An applicant must be at least eighteen years of age.

If you meet the preceding criterion you may complete the application for naturalization as much as 90 days before you meet the length of residency requirement that applies to your situation, take a civics exam, and complete an interview. Under certain circumstances applicants, such as military personnel or spouses, may have modified requirements for naturalization. Upon the completion of these requirements you will take an oath of allegiance at the swearing-in ceremony, which usually takes place from 1 to 180 days after you have completed your interview.

Benefits of United States Citizenship

Upon the completion of the naturalization process you will be granted the rights of a United States citizen. These rights of United States citizenship include:

  • The right to vote in United States elections
  • Increased employment opportunities
  • All the protection and freedoms established by the United States government
  • Freedom to travel throughout the world.

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