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Basic Requirements for US Naturalization

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Children and Adults Are Sworn In As US Citizens During Ceremony

Children and Adults Are Sworn In As US Citizens During Ceremony

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Updated November 25, 2010
Naturalization is the voluntary process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to foreign citizens or nationals after they have fulfilled the requirements established by Congress. The naturalization process offers immigrants a road to the benefits of U.S. citizenship.

While the exact process of naturalization can vary depending on each individual's situation, there are some basic requirements that all immigrants to the United States must meet before applying for naturalization. U.S. naturalization is administered by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS), formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). According to the USCIS, the basic requirements for naturalization are:
  • Have lived within the state or USCIS district with jurisdiction over your place of residence for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing Form N-400.
  • Have continuous residence in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400.
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400.
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English.
  • Be a person of good moral character.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution.
Civics Test
All applicants for naturalization are required to take a civics test to prove a basic understanding of U.S. history and government. There are 100 questions on the civics test. During the naturalization interview, applicants will be asked up to 10 questions from the list of 100 questions. Applicants must answer at least six (6) of the 10 questions correctly to pass the civics test. Applicants have two opportunities to take the English and civics tests per application. Applicants who fail any portion of the test during their first interview will be retested on the portion of the test they failed within 90 days.

English Speaking Test
The ability of applicants to speak English is determined by a USCIS Officer during an eligibility interview on Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

English Reading Test
Applicants are required to read at least one out of three sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to read in English.

English Writing Test
Applicants must write at least one out of three sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to write in English.

Oath of Citizenship
All applicants who successfully complete the naturalization process are required to take an Oath of U.S. Citizenship and Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution before being issued an official Certificate of Naturalization.

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