The United States has a long history of welcoming immigrants from all parts of the world. During the last decade, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) welcomed more than 7.4 million naturalized citizens into the fabric of our nation. In fiscal year 2018, over 757,000 people were naturalized.
Deciding to become a U.S. citizen can be a very important milestone in an immigrant’s life. Individuals must demonstrate a commitment to the unifying principles that bind us as Americans and, in return, will enjoy many of the rights and privileges that are fundamental to U.S. citizenship.
About the Naturalization Process
Individuals age 18 or older seeking to become a citizen of the United States may apply for naturalization by filing an Application for Naturalization, Form N-400. The N-400 application is one of the forms available for online filing. To be eligible for naturalization, an applicant must fulfill certain eligibility requirements set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
These general eligibility requirements specify that the applicant must:
- Be at least 18 years of age;
- Be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder);
- Have resided in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years;
- Have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months;
- Be a person of good moral character;
- Be able to speak, read, write and understand the English language;
- Have knowledge of U.S. government and history;
- Demonstrate attachment to the principles of the Constitution and well disposition to the good order and happiness of the United States; and,
- Be willing and able to take the Oath of Allegiance.
Special naturalization provisions exempt certain applicants from one or more of the general requirements for naturalization. Spouses of U.S. citizens and members of the military constitute the main categories of individuals who are exempt from some of the general requirements for naturalization.
- Individuals who apply for naturalization as spouses of U.S. citizens may be eligible do so three years after being admitted as lawful permanent residents, rather than the five years prescribed under the general provisions.
- Spouses of U.S. citizens stationed abroad may not be required to meet any particular residence or physical presence requirement.
- Members of the military who served honorably during certain periods of conflict may be eligible for naturalization even though they have not been admitted as lawful permanent residents and even if they are under the age of 18.
- Members of the military who served honorably for at least one year, at any time, and apply for naturalization within a certain time after their military service, are also exempt from the general residence and physical presence requirements.
All persons filing an Application for Naturalization who have submitted a complete application along with all required documents will be scheduled for an interview with a USCIS officer. Those applicants 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 do not become U.S. citizens until they have taken the Oath.
- Since 2009, USCIS welcomed approximately 620,000 to 780,000 citizens each year during naturalization ceremonies across the United States and around the world.
- In FY 2018, 73 percent of all naturalized citizens resided in 10 states (in descending order): California, Florida, New York, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
- In FY 2018, the leading metropolitan areas of residence were New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (15 percent), Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (7.8 percent), and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL (7.3 percent).
- In FY 2018, the top countries of origin for naturalization were in the following descending order: Mexico, India, Philippines, Cuba, and People’s Republic of China.
The INA also provides for the automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship or naturalization of children who are under the age of 18.
- A child under the age of 18, who is a lawful permanent resident residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of a U.S. citizen parent, 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 who is residing abroad and who is temporarily present in the U.S. based on a lawful admission, may be eligible to naturalize while under the age of 18 if he or she has at least one parent who is a citizen of the United States, and if the parent (or qualifying grandparent) meets certain physical presence requirements in the United States through Form N-600K.
- There are exemptions benefiting children of active-duty members of the military stationed abroad on their service member parent(s)’ orders in Form N-600K.
For additional information about USCIS and its programs, visit www.uscis.gov.
 FY18 statistics may be subject to change based upon the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Immigration Statistics.
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