Overview of the Naturalization Process

Becoming a citizen of the United States can be a long process and, depending on your circumstances, it can become very complicated. It’s a pathway that may have some twists and turns, but it’s one that can be navigated with the help of an attorney.

Generally speaking, a person 18 years old or older who is interested in becoming a citizen of the U.S. needs to apply for naturalization by filing an Application for Naturalization, Form N-400. To qualify for naturalization, the applicant must meet certain eligibility requirements spelled out in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), including:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a lawful permanent resident (have green card)
  • Have lived in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years
  • Been physically present in the U.S. for at least thirty months out of the previous five years. If the applicant was outside the country for more than six months but less than a year, he or she may still be eligible if they can show the time away was not an abandonment of resident status.
  • Have good moral character. Some criminal convictions that occurred in the five years prior to the application will prevent naturalization, but all criminal convictions must be disclosed.
  • Have the ability to speak, read, write and understand English.
  • Be knowledgeable of the U.S. government and U.S. history.
  • Take the Oath of Allegiance.

There are provisions of the law that exempt certain applicants (mostly spouses of U.S. citizens and members of the military) from one or more of these general requirements.

The INA also provides for the naturalization of children younger than 18.

  • A child under the age of 18 who is a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of a parent who is in the U.S. may automatically acquire U.S. citizenship. To obtain evidence of U.S. citizenship, an Application for Certificate of Citizenship, Form N-600, must be filed on behalf of the child.
  • A child living abroad but who is legally, temporarily present in the U.S. may be eligible to seek naturalization if he or she is younger than 18, has at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen and the parent (or a qualifying grandparent) meets physical presence requirements in the U.S.
  • There are also exemptions for children of active-duty military members stationed abroad.

All of those filing an Application for Naturalization who submitted an application along with the required documentation will be interviewed by a USCIS officer. Those found qualified are scheduled for an oath ceremony before a judge or an officer delegated the authority by the Director of USCIS to administer the Oath of Allegiance. Applicants are not U.S. citizens until they take the Oath.

If you are an immigrant living in Kentucky, call CF Abogados today at (859) 971-0060 or fill out the online contact form if you have any questions about the naturalization process and to learn more about what you can do to obtain permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship.

Attorney Kirby J. Fullerton

Attorney Kirby J. Fullerton

Mr. Fullerton’s practice is focused on immigration law. He speaks Spanish, and represents clients in cases before the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He began his career practicing criminal defense, and understands how matters in criminal courts can affect a client’s immigration status. [Attorney Bio]