Most permanent residents ("green card" holders) are eligible to apply for citizenship through a naturalization application. Other aliens become U.S. citizens automatically by being born outside the United States to one or more U.S. citizen parents. Some aliens acquire U.S. citizenship through the naturalization of one or both of their parents.
Most applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Be a Legal Permanent Resident ("green card" holder). Exception: If you have honorably served in time of war or declared hostilities, you do not have to be a Legal Permanent Resident.
- Be at least 18 years of age.
- Be a resident for a continuous period of five years after becoming a Legal Permanent Resident, or for a continuous period of three years if you became a Legal Permanent Resident through marriage to a U.S. citizen. (You must be physically present in the U.S. for at least one-half of the five years, or one-half of the three years, as the case may be.)
- Cannot be absent from the U.S. for a continuous period of more than one year during the periods for which continuous residence is required. (Absence for more than six months but less than one year establishes a presumption against compliance with the continuous residency requirements.)
- Must reside for at least three months in the State where the petition is filed.
- Must reside continuously in the U.S. while your application for citizenship is pending.
- Must be a person of good moral character and support the U.S. Constitution.
- Must have a basic understanding of English, and of U.S. history and government.(Exceptions to the English language requirement apply to persons who have been permanent residents for 15 years or more and are over 55 years of age, or persons who have been permanent residents for 20 years or more and are over 50 years of age, and exceptions to both the English language and history and government requirements apply to physically or developmentally disabled or mentally impaired persons.)
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