What is naturalization?

Naturalization is the process through which an immigrant to the United States can become a U.S. citizen. Only certain immigrants are eligible: those who either have been green card holders (permanent residents) for 3–5 years or meet various military service requirements. Not sure if you qualify for citizenship? Start by checking your eligibility.

Becoming an American citizen comes with many advantages, and it also means taking on new responsibilities.

What is the current naturalization wait time?

The naturalization processing time, from the time you file your citizenship application to when you attend the Oath of Allegiance ceremony, is currently between 18.5 and 24 months .

Eligibility for Naturalization

Who is eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization?

Eligibility for naturalization generally depends on a number of factors:

  • How long you’ve had your green card
  • How long you’ve physically lived in the United States
  • Whether you’ve served in the U.S. military (and if so, whether your service was during “peacetime” or “wartime” —

Who can apply for U.S. citizenship and when?

If you are a…

And you’ve physically lived in the U.S. for at least…*

You can apply for naturalization…

Green card holder with no special circumstances

30 months (2.5 years)

After 5 years

Green card holder who is married to a U.S. citizen

18 months (1.5 years)

After 3 years

Widow or widower of a U.S. citizen who died while honorably serving in the military**

Not required


Green card holder with at least 1 year of peacetime military service

Not required

While in active duty or within 6 months of honorably separating from the military**

Green card holder with less than 1 year of peacetime military service

30 months (2.5 years)

After 5 years

Green card holder with at least 1 year of peacetime military service and honorably discharged more than 6 months ago**

30 months (2.5 years)

After 5 years

Member of the military with any period of wartime service (with or without a green card)

Not required


Naturalization Requirements

In addition to waiting three or five years after getting your green card (unless you’re applying based on qualifying military service), you must also satisfy the following requirements to proceed with the naturalization process to become a United States citizen:

  1. You must be at least 18 years old.
  2. You must nothave taken any trips of six months or longer outside of the United States during the three- or five-year wait period.
  3. You must have been a resident of the state where you plan to apply for citizenship for at least three months.
  4. You must have “good moral character,” broadly defined as character that measures up to the standards of average citizens in your community. More specifically, however, it means you did not have certain types of crimes — such as murder, illegal gambling, or intentionally lying to the U.S. government in order to gain immigration benefits — on your record at any time before filing, and you did not lie during your naturalization interview. Whether an applicant meets this requirement is decided by the government on a case-by-case basis.
  5. You must pass a two-part naturalization test: the first is an English language test(covering reading, writing, and speaking skills) and the second a civics test (covering knowledge of U.S. history and government).
  6. You must be willing to serve in the U.S. military or perform civilian service for the United States if called upon to do so.
  7. You must register with the Selective Service Systemif you are male and have lived in the United States between the ages of 18 and 25.
  8. You must be willing to defend the U.S. Constitution.
Benefits of Naturalization

Once you officially receive your Certificate of Naturalization, you’ll have access to a number of benefits that were previously unavailable to you as a green card holder. In this section, we’ll touch on a few of these.

Voting rights

As a green card holder, you may have been able to vote in certain local municipalities, but with a Certificate of Citizenship, you can make an impact on the national stage by casting your vote in federal elections.

Eligibility to Run for Office

To be eligible for candidacy in U.S. elections, you must be a citizen, which means, with a Certificate of Naturalization, you can run for office.

No More Immigration Forms

Moving forward, you won’t need to go through the rigamarole of filing forms with USCIS. That means no more filing fees, no more green card renewals or replacements, and no more having to check in with the U.S. government whenever you decide you want to move.

New Employment Opportunities

Under U.S. law, only U.S. citizens may be hired to work for the U.S. government. While income levels vary, federal employees are generally paid more and have greater benefits than their private-sector counterparts.

Greater Access to Government Assistance Programs

As a green card holder, you have limited access — if any — to federal programs like Social Security and Medicare. But with a Certificate of Naturalization, you’ll no longer face these restrictions. You can even, in certain cases, apply for federal college assistance, which is reserved solely for U.S. citizens.

No More Deportations

Just as with any U.S. citizen, you cannot be forcibly removed from the United States. This is true even if you’re convicted or arrested. A naturalized citizen can only be deported if they are first stripped of their citizenship — which is very rare. For this to occur, the initial application must have been fraudulent in some way.

Ability to Sponsor Relatives Seeking Immigration Status

With a Certificate of Naturalization, you can sponsor any siblings, parents, or adult children who wish to apply for lawful permanent residence in the United States.

Automatic Citizenship for Children

Once you’re naturalized, your children will automatically obtain citizenship, even if they’re born abroad. If your child is born outside the United States, be sure to notify the U.S. embassy or consulate.

The Power of the U.S. Passport

As a citizen of the United States, you’re entitled to a U.S. passport, which comes with a number of benefits. For starters, you’ll have visa-free access to over 180 countries and territories throughout the world, and if, while abroad, you find yourself in an emergency, you’ll be able to contact the local U.S. consulate or embassy. You’ll also have near-complete freedom to travel the globe, as the U.S. government places no restrictions on the duration or frequency of trips abroad.

Share on
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

We are Always Ready to Assist Our Clients

Consulting & developing processes and procedures