Applicants applying for naturalization must first meet the US naturalization eligibility requirements to determine whether or not they are eligible for naturalization. The following list lists and explains the US naturalization requirements that must be met in order for an individual to qualify for US naturalization.

Generally, persons eligible for naturalization are those who:

  • Have been a US permanent resident for at least 5 years.
  • Have been a US permanent resident for 3 to 5 years and is married to a US citizen.
  • Have served in the United States Armed Forces.

The specific US naturalization requirements for each of the above listed naturalization categories are detailed below.

Permanent Resident for at Least 5 Years

According to USCIS, this category represents at least 90 percent of all naturalization applicants. Applicants filing under this category must meet the following US naturalization eligibility requirements.

  • Have not been out of the United States for more than 30 months during the past 5 years.
  • Have not been out of the United States on a trip lasting 1 year or more during the past 5 years.
  • Have lived in the state or district in which they are applying for citizenship for the past 3 months prior to filing their application.
  • Can read, write, and speak English.
  • Know US history fundamentals and US government principles.

Permanent Resident for 3 to 5 Years

Spouses of US citizens at least 18 years of age may be eligible for naturalization given that they have been married to their US citizens spouse for at least 3 years and:

  • Have not been out of the United States on a trip lasting 1 year or more during the past 3 years.
  • Have lived in the state or district in which they are applying for citizenship for the past 3 months prior to filing their application.
  • Can read, write, and speak English.
  • Know US history fundamentals and US government principles.
  • Are married to and living with a US citizen.
  • Have been married to that US citizen for the past 3 or more years.
  • Their US citizen spouse has been a US citizen for the past 3 or more years.
  • Have not been out of the United States for more than 18 months during the past 3 years.

Served in the United States Armed Forces

Those who have served in any branch of the US military for the past one year (or have filed an application within six months of an honorable discharge) must only be a permanent resident by the day of the naturalization interview in order to qualify for naturalization. This also applies to anyone who has served in a combat role. Continuous residency and physical presence in the United States is not required for these applicants.

Anyone who fails to meet the one-year service requirement or six-month honorable discharge deadline must be a permanent resident for 5 years without leaving the country for more than 6 months.

Applicants who have served in the US Armed Forces must also:

  • Have never deserted from the US Armed Forces; and
  • Have never received an exemption or discharge from the US Armed Forces on the grounds of being an alien.

US Naturalization Eligibility Requirements for All Applicants

In addition to the naturalization requirements specific to each of the naturalization categories, the following naturalization eligibility requirements must be met by all candidates.

Over 18 Years of Age

Only applicants who are 18 years or older are eligible for naturalization. Applicants under 18 years of age are excepted from this requirement if applying for military naturalization under section 329 of the INA.

Good Moral Character

Although there is no specific definition for "good moral character," an applicant's moral character may be based on criminal history. Candidates may be determined not to have good moral character if they were convicted, imprisoned, in possession of drugs, or involved in prostitution, among many other possible things.

English & Civics Knowledge

Knowing English and US civics knowledge is an important part of the US naturalization eligibility requirements. The USCIS interviewer will ask a series of questions about the origins, purpose, and function of the US government, including questions to assess basic English skills (speaking, reading, and writing). Older applicants who have been residents for an extended period of time may be able to skip the English language requirement of the naturalization process.

Willingness to Defend US

Eligible naturalization candidates must be willing to perform military services or civilian services for the United States when required by law.

Attachment to the Constitution

Applicants must demonstrate they understand the meaning of the US Constitution and agree with its principles. The USCIS interviewer will ask candidates to renounce foreign allegiances and defend the United States if necessary.

Oath of Allegiance

As a part of the naturalization process, applicants must be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States during their naturalization interview. In their Oath, applicants must declare their support of the Constitution and laws of the United States.

Exceptions to US Naturalization Requirements

There are exceptions to some of the above mentioned US naturalization eligibility requirements. To see if you qualify for an exception, read the below naturalization eligibility exceptions.

Out of the United States for 30 Months or More

If you have been out of the country for over 30 months in the past 5 years and meet one of the exceptions, you may still be eligible for naturalization.

  • You have served on board a US operated or US registered vessel;
  • You are an employee or under contract to the US Government; or
  • You perform ministerial or priestly duties for a religious denomination in the US.

Out of the United States on a 1 Year or Longer Trip

If you are a permanent resident who has taken a trip outside of the US lasting 1 year or more, you may be eligible for naturalization if:

  • You took the trip with an approved Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes.

Cannot Read, Write, or Speak English

If you cannot read, write, or speak English and meet one of the following exceptions, you may still be eligible for naturalization.

  • You are over 50 years old and have lived in the US for at least 20 years after obtaining permanent residency.
  • You are over 55 years old and have lived in the US for at least 15 years after obtaining permanent residency.
  • You are unable to fulfill this requirement due to a disability and will file Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions.

Unable to Fulfill Civics Requirement

If you are unable to fulfill the US civics naturalization requirement, you must file Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions.

If you meet the naturalization eligibility requirements, the next step of the naturalization application process is to gather the required documents. See Naturalization Documents for more details.