If you are not born a citizen of the U.S., the way to become a citizen is through the naturalization process. Citizenship is not the only path to becoming a legal resident of the country, but it may be a good option for those planning to live in the U.S. the rest of their lives, and want to enjoy all the same rights as native-born citizens.
U.S. law contains certain requirements for anyone applying to be a citizen. In order to become a U.S. citizen, you must:
- Live in the U.S. for at least five years, and be physically present in the country for at least half of that time. People married to a U.S. citizen need live in the country for only three years before becoming a citizen themselves.
- Live continuously in the U.S. from the date you apply up to the time you become a citizen.
- Be a person of good moral character. A criminal record, no matter how old, may prevent you from becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, and may lead to you losing your permanent resident status.
- Meet the required standards of literacy and knowledge of U.S. government and history. Applicants generally take tests to show their ability to read, write and speak English, but some applicants may be allowed to take the test in their native language.
With the help of an immigration law attorney, those looking to become naturalized U.S. citizens can begin that process. It may take time, but qualified candidates will eventually be able to enjoy full citizenship.