Citizenship Requirements

Becoming a United States citizen can be exciting, but it can also be confusing and complicated. Before you can apply for citizenship, also known as naturalization, there are likely certain requirements you must meet. In addition, the requirements can change based on your individual situation. These are the general requirements that must be met before you apply for citizenship in the United States.

Eligibility Requirements

In order to apply to become a United States citizen, you must be 18 years of age at the time you file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. You must be a permanent resident, which means you must hold a green card, for at least five years. You also must live in the United States Customs and Immigration District where you apply for at least three months. In addition, you must prove that you have had continuous residence in the United States for the five years prior to your application and that you have been physically present for at least 30 months of the five years you lived in the country.

English and Civics Requirement

Unless you qualify for an exemption, you must be able to read, write and speak basic English to become a US citizen. During your interview with the USCIS Officer after your application is filed, you will need to speak English and the officer will determine whether you meet that requirement. You will be required to take a reading test where you will need to be able to read aloud at least one of three sentences correctly to show you can read English. You will also be required to write one of three sentences correctly to confirm your ability to write English. There are 100 civics questions on the naturalization test, but you will be asked only up to 10 of them during the interview. You must get at least six of ten correct in order to pass the test.

Good Moral Character

Another requirement for becoming a citizen is that you must be of good moral character. This means that if you have engaged in or have been convicted of certain crimes, have habitually overused alcohol or been convicted of drunk driving, you may be ineligible for citizenship. Two or more gambling convictions will also make you ineligible for citizenship. Although there may be others, some of the crimes that may make you ineligible include:

  • Armed bank robbery
  • Bribery
  • Drug trafficking
  • Human trafficking
  • Murder
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Sexual abuse of a child

Because immigration and citizenship laws are complicated, if you have a criminal record it is recommended that you speak to an attorney or immigration specialist before filing paperwork with USCIS.