There are a number of reasons a person in lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. would take steps to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization.
There are a number of criteria an applicant for naturalization must meet. He or she must be at least 18 years of age and a person of good moral character. With limited exceptions, an applicant for naturalization must be able to speak, read and write English. The applicant for naturalization must demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and government.
Generally, an applicant for naturalization must have held U.S. lawful permanent resident for at least five years. An applicant for naturalization who is married to and residing with a U.S. citizen spouse may be eligible for naturalization after three years of status as a U.S. lawful permanent resident. An applicant for naturalization who is a U.S. lawful permanent resident married to a U.S. citizen when the U.S. citizen spouse has been assigned to work overseas for a U.S. company may obtain citizenship without being required to hold lawful permant resident status in the U.S. for any specific period of time.
In addition, an applicant for naturalization must meet continuous residence and physical presence requirements. An applicant for naturalization must have been physically present in the United States for at least one half of the qualifying time in U.S. lawful permanent resident status. Accordingly, most applicants for naturalization must have spent at least 30 months out of the last 60 months physically present in the United States. Applicants married to U.S. citizens must have spent at least 18 months out of the last 36 months physically present in the U.S.
The applicant’s residence in the U.S. must be continuous. Continuous absences of six months to one year or more may interrupt the continuity of the applicant’s residence in the U.S. for purposes of naturalization. Finally, the applicant for naturalization must have resided at least three months in the jurisdiction of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) service district where the application for naturalization will be filed.
To apply for naturalization, applicants file an application for naturalization with USCIS. Applicants for naturalization must attend an interview at the USCIS field office with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence. At the time of the naturalization interview the applicant must demonstrate eligibility for naturalization including the applicant’s knowledge of the English language, U.S. government and U.S. history.
Upon successful completion of the naturalization interview, the applicant for naturalization must attend a naturalization ceremony. During the naturalization ceremony, the applicant for naturalization will take the oath of allegiance to the United States. Upon completing the naturalization ceremony, USCIS will issue a certificate of naturalization to the applicant. The certificate of naturalization serves as proof of U.S. citizenship.