What Steps Must I Complete to Become a Naturalized Citizen?

Naturalization is the process by which a person can become a United States citizen.  At Manikas Law we assist clients in understanding the process, providing guidance on the appropriate documentation, and completing the necessary paperwork.  

There are many requirements that must be satisfied as part of the naturalization process. 

A basic overview of the requirements for naturalization:

  • Be a lawful permanent resident (LPR)
  • At least 18 years old
  • Meet four residence and presence requirements
  1. 5 years of continuous residence- An applicant must have resided continuously in the U.S. as a LPR for the last 5 years immediately prior to applying for naturalization (only 3 years is required for those married to U.S. citizens)
  2. 3 Months Local Residence - An applicant must have lived in the state or CIS district when he files his naturalization application for at least 3 months immediately before filing his application.
  3. Continuous Residence AFTER Application - Once a person files their application, they must maintain continuous residence from the date of filing until he/she is admitted to U.S. citizenship.  
  4. Physical Presence - The applicant Must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the 5/3 year residence period immediately prior to submitting the application.  
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English (exceptions apply if the applicant is over 50 years old and has been a LPR for at least 20 years OR the applicant is over 55 years old and has been legal resident for at least 15 years).
  • Be able to demonstrate knowledge sufficient to pass a test on U.S. history and government (exception applies if the applicant is over 65 years old that have been a LPR for 20 or more years).
  • Take a loyalty oath to the United States
  • Have good moral character during the 5/3 year period immediately prior to filing application – establishing good moral character is a three step process.  First, a person must not be deportable; if so, they can be placed in removal proceedings and risk losing their LPR status.  Second, the person must not fall within one of the statutory bars to establishing good moral character during the 5/3 year period.  Third, the person must show that has good moral character that meets the community standard.  Despite the fact that the relevant period is 5/3 years, CIS can look beyond that period.

Factors considered in determining whether a person has good moral character:

Length of time in U.S.
Family ties and background
Absences or presence of other criminal history
Education and school records
Employment history
General law abiding behavior
Community involvement
Credibility of applicant

The following factors may show BAD moral character

Willful failure to pay child support
Failure to file tax returns
Failure to register for selective service (if knowingly and willfully done)
Adultery
Refusal to respond to questions about history, associations, activities
DUI conviction coupled with aggravating circumstances
Fraudulent receipt of public benefits
Being on probation or parole at time of interview
Unlawful voting and false claim to citizenship
Other factors listed in 8 CFR 316.10

An applicant can show “extenuating circumstances” to try to explain the presence of negative factors that do not fall within the statutory bars.

If you would like to discuss becoming a naturalized citizen, please complete the "Contact Us" box on this site to get in touch with our firm.