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Requirements for U.S. Citizenship

Do you want to be a U.S. citizen?

It is important to understand the following requirements you need to satisfy.


You must:

  • Be of the minimum age. The minimum age to apply for Naturalization is 18.

  • Have a green card.  You need to be a green card holder in order to apply to be a U.S. citizen. Typically, USCIS requires applicants to have held a green card for 3 or 5 years.

  • Live in the United States. You must demonstrate continuous residence and physical presence in the United States. Trips outside of the U.S. for longer than six months can impact your eligibility. 

  • Have good moral character. You must demonstrate that you have exhibited good moral character for the past 3 or 5 years prior to filing your application depending on the applicant’s eligibility category.  Acts outside of the good moral character period can also be considered.  It is important to speak to an attorney prior to filing your application.

  • Pass the naturalization test. You must be able to complete an English language test that evaluates your writing, reading, and speaking skills. The naturalization test also includes a portion that evaluates your knowledge of U.S. history and government.  An immigration attorney can help determine if you qualify for an exception to the testing requirement. 

  • Swear allegiance to the United States. You will attend a public swearing-in ceremony that affirms your commitment to the Constitution, the responsibilities of a U.S. citizen, and an oath of allegiance. 

How Long Does It Take to Become a U.S. Citizen After Filing the N-400?

When you apply for U.S. Citizenship, you will file form N-400, the Application for Naturalization. If completed correctly and backed with sufficient evidence, your N-400 could be approved within 12 to 18 months. It depends on the processing times at your local USCIS field office.


How Do I Prepare for the Naturalization Exam?

U.S. citizenship applicants are worried about the naturalization exam. The exam is a two-part evaluation that tests applicants’ English language abilities and their knowledge of U.S. government and history.

For the English test, you will be examined on your ability to speak and understand, write, and read English. The civics portion of the test is oral, where a USCIS officer will ask you  questions from a pool of potential questions which will be provided to you in advance.

English Language Exemptions

You are exempt from the English language requirement, but are still required to take the civics test if you are:

  • Age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident (Green Card holder) in the United States for 20 years (commonly referred to as the “50/20” exception).

  • Age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years (commonly referred to as the “55/15” exception).



  • Even if you qualify for the “50/20” or “55/15” English language exceptions listed above, you must still take the civics test.

  • You will be permitted to take the civics test in your native language.

  • If you take the test in your native language, you must bring an interpreter with you to your interview.

  • Your interpreter must be fluent in both English and your native language.

  • If you are age 65 or older and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing for naturalization, you will be given special consideration regarding the civics requirement.


Other Things You Remember

If you’re interested in becoming a U.S. citizen, it is also important to consider the actual application process. We will explain the steps expected in your particular case such as crime records.


Here is an overview of the whole process for citizenship.

  • Application for Naturalization: The first step in applying for U.S. citizenship is to file an Application for Naturalization, Form N-400, and pay the filing fees. You may be exempt from filing fees or may be able to file earlier than your three- or five-year wait period. Please speak with us for more information.

  • Biometrics Appointment: After your application is received by USCIS, you will be scheduled for fingerprints to be taken and provide other information at your local USCIS application support center.

  • Citizenship Interview and Exam: Your local USCIS field office will conduct an interview. During this interview, the USCIS officer will verify the information on your application and give you the two-part naturalization exam described above. 

  • Oath of Allegiance: If your application is approved, you will become a U.S. citizen after taking your oath of allegiance. 


Working with an attorney to help you through the process of applying for citizenship is invaluable. We will ensure that you are eligible to apply for citizenship, advise you of any risks you might not know, and ensure the proper documents should be submitted to USCIS.

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