Naturalization and Citizenship

Naturalization is the conferring of U.S. citizenship after birth by any means whatsoever. Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Naturalized U.S. citizens share equally in the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship. U.S. citizenship offers immigrants the ability to vote in Federal elections, travel with a U.S. Passport, run for elective office where citizenship is required, participate on a jury, Become eligible for federal and certain law enforcement jobs, obtain certain State and Federal benefits not available to noncitizens, obtain citizenship for minor children born abroad, and expand and expedite their ability to bring family members to the United States.

The United States has a long history of welcoming immigrants from all parts of the world and values the contributions of immigrants who continue to enrich United States and preserve its legacy as a land of freedom and opportunity. The promise of citizenship is grounded in the fundamental value that all persons are created equal and serves as a unifying identity to allow persons of all backgrounds, whether native or foreign-born, to have an equal stake in the future of the United States.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administer citizenship and naturalization law and policy as well as grant immigration and naturalization benefits. Accordingly, USCIS reviews benefit request for citizenship and naturalization to determine whether:

  • Foreign-born children of U.S. citizens by birth or naturalization meet the eligibility requirements before recognizing their acquisition or derivation of U.S. citizenship.
  • Persons applying for naturalization based on their time as lawful permanent residents meet the eligibility requirements to become U.S. citizens.
  • Persons applying for naturalization based on their marriage to a U.S. citizen meet the eligibility requirements for naturalization through the provisions for spouses of U.S. citizens.
  • Members of the U.S. armed forces and their families are eligible for naturalization and ensure that qualified applicants are naturalized expeditiously through the military provisions.
  • Persons working abroad for certain entities, to include the U.S. Government, meet the eligibility requirements for certain exceptions to the general naturalization requirements.
A person may derive or acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. Persons who are born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States are citizens at birth. Persons who are born in certain territories or outlying possessions of the United States after certain period are also eligible for citizenship at birth. Persons born in American Samoa and Swain Island are generally considered nationals but not citizens of the United States.  In addition, persons who are born outside of the United States may be U.S. citizens at birth if one or both parents were U.S. citizens at their time of birth. Persons who are not U.S. citizens at birth may become U.S. citizens through naturalization.

In general, an applicant files a naturalization application and then USCIS grants citizenship after adjudicating the application. In some cases, a person may be naturalized by operation of law (deriving citizenship). In either instance, the foreign citizen or national must fulfill all of the requirements established by Congress. In most cases, a person may not be naturalized unless he or she has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence.

USCIS conducts an investigation and examination of all naturalization applicants to determine whether an applicant meets all pertinent eligibility requirements to become a U.S. citizen. The authority includes the legal authority for certain officers to administer the Oath of Allegiance, obtain oral and written testimony during an in-person interview, subpoena witnesses, and request evidence. The investigation and examination process encompasses all factors relating to the applicant's eligibility including completion of security and criminal background checks, review of the applicant’s complete immigration record, in-person interview(s) with oral and written testimony, testing for English and civics requirements, and qualification for a disability exception.

The applicant has the burden of establishing eligibility by a preponderance of the evidence throughout the examination. The officer must resolve any pending issues and obtain all of the necessary information and evidence to make a decision on the application.