Naturalization refers to the process in which a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen. For foreign-born persons, naturalization is the most common way to become a U.S. citizen. Before an individual can apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization, the applicant must meet several requirements.
Eligible to Become a U.S. Citizen
Many lawful permanent residents are eligible to become a U.S. citizen and don’t even realize it. In fact, an estimated seven million green card holders are eligible right now. You may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization if you:
- Have been a permanent resident for the past 5 years Learn more >>
- Are currently married to and living with a U.S. citizen and have been married to and living with that same U.S. citizen for the past 3 years Learn more >>
- Are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces (or will be filing the application within 6 months of an honorable discharge) and have served for at least 1 year Learn more >>
Application for Naturalization
Once you are eligible to become a U.S. citizen, you may apply by filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In fact, you can even use our N-400 preparation service to determine your eligibility. Alternatively, you may download the application and filing instructions on USCIS.gov.
Other Ways to Become a U.S. Citizen
In addition to birth in the United States and naturalization, there are a couple of other ways that a person can become a U.S. citizen.
Sometimes, a child born outside the United States can automatically “acquire” citizenship if at least one parent is a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth. It is actually a little more complicated and laws have changed over the years. For more information, read about acquisition of citizenship.
A permanent resident child under 18 years of age can also “derive” citizenship when a parent naturalizes. The permanent resident child must be residing in the United States with the parent. For more information, read about derivation of citizenship.