Citizenship FAQ - United States


On what other basis can I apply for naturalization?

You may apply for naturalization if:

  1. You were married to a U.S. citizen who died during a period of honorable active duty service in the U.S. Armed Forces. You must be a Permanent Resident on the day of your interview.
    NOTE
    You must have been married to and living with your U.S. citizen spouse at the time of his/her death.
  2. You are a U.S. national (a non-citizen who owes permanent allegiance to the United States) AND have become a resident of any State AND are otherwise qualified for naturalization. You are not required to be a Permanent Resident.
    NOTE
    Any time you resided in American Samoa or Swains Island counts the same as the time you resided within a State of the United States.
  3. You served on a vessel operated by the United States OR If you served on a vessel registered in the United States and owned by U.S. citizens or a U.S. corporation. You must have 5 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longer.
    NOTE
    If you were out of the country while serving on a vessel, this time out of the country does not break your 'continuous residence'. It is treated just like time spent in the United States.
  4. You are an employee or an individual under contract to the U.S. Government. You must have 5 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longer.
    NOTE
    An absence from the United States for 1 year or more will break your 'continuous residence'. You may keep your 'continuous residence' if you have had at least 1 year of unbroken 'continuous residence' since becoming a Permanent Resident and you get an approved N-470 before you have been out of the United States for 1 year.
  5. You are a person who performs ministerial or priestly functions for a religious denomination or an interdenominational organization with a valid presence in the United States 5 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longer.
    NOTE
    An absence from the United States for 1 year or more will break your 'continuous residence'. You may keep your 'continuous residence' if you have had at least 1 year of unbroken 'continuous residence' since becoming a Permanent Resident and you get an approved N-470 at any time before applying for naturalization.
  6. You are employed by one of the following:
    • An American institution of research recognized by the Attorney General;
    • An American-owned firm or corporation engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce for the United States; or
    • A public international organization of which the United States is a member by law or treaty (if the employment began after you became a Permanent Resident) 5 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longer.
    NOTE
    An absence from the United States for 1 year or more will break your 'continuous residence'. You may keep your 'continuous residence' if you have had at least 1 year of unbroken 'continuous residence' since becoming a Permanent Resident and you get an approved N-470 before you have been out of the United States for 1 year.
  7. You have been employed for 5 years or more by a U.S. nonprofit organization that principally promotes the interests of the United States abroad through the communications media. You must have 5 years as a permanent resident.
  8. You are the spouse of a U.S. citizen who is one of the following:
    • A member of the U.S. Armed Forces;
    • An employee or an individual under contract to the U.S. Government;
    • An employee of an American institution of research recognized by the Attorney General;
    • An employee of an American-owned firm or corporation engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce for the United States;
    • An employee of a public international organization of which the United States is a member by law or treaty; or
    • A person who performs ministerial or priestly functions for a religious denomination or an interdenominational organization with a valid presence in the United States
    AND
Your citizen spouse is working abroad under an employment contract with the qualifying employer for at least 1 year and will continue to be so employed at the time you are naturalized. You must be a Permanent Resident at the time of your CIS interview
How long can I leave the United States without interrupting my continuous residence?

Absences of 6 Months but Less than 1 Year

If you are outside of the U.S. for 6 months or more you have interrupted your continuous residence. However, if you were out of the country for less than one year (12 months) you may be able to maintain your continuous residence status if you can demonstrate (with evidence) that you continued to live, work and/or keep close ties to the United States. Such evidence may include:

  • An IRS tax return "transcript" or an IRS-certified tax return listing tax information for the last 5 years (or for the last 3 years if you are applying on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen)
  • Rent or mortgage payments and pay stubs.

Absences of 1 Year or Longer

In almost all cases, if you leave the United States for 1 year or more, you have disrupted your "continuous residence." This is true even if you have a Re-entry Permit. If you leave the country for 1 year or longer, you may be eligible to re-enter as a Permanent Resident if you have a Re-entry Permit but none of the time you were in the United States before you left the country counts toward your time in "continuous residence." Fortunately, if you return within 2 years, some of your time out of the country does count. In fact, the last 364 days of your time out of the country (1 year minus 1 day) counts toward meeting your "continuous residence" requirement.

There are a few small groups of applicants who do not have any "continuous residence" requirement (for example, members of the U.S. Armed Forces). There are also a few small groups of people who can leave the country for over 1 year and not disrupt their "continuous residence". To maintain their "continuous residence" while out of the country, these people must file an Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes (Form N-470). Individuals can use this form if they are a permanent resident who must leave the United States for certain employment purposes and they wish to preserve their status as an immigrant in order to pursue naturalization.

For more information on this form please contact your local or state USCIS Service Center.

Who can use Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes (Form N-470?)

If you are:

  • an employee or an individual under contract to the U.S. Government
  • a person who performs ministerial or priestly functions for a religious denomination or an interdenominational organization with a valid presence in the United States 5 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longer
  • employed by one of the following:
    • An American institution of research recognized by the Attorney General;
    • An American-owned firm or corporation engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce for the United States; or
    • A public international organization of which the United States is a member by law or treaty (if the employment began after you became a Permanent Resident) 5 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longer.

You may keep your "continuous residence" if you have had at least 1 year of unbroken "continuous residence" since becoming a Permanent Resident and you get an approved N-470 before you have been out of the United States for 1 year.

Can I qualify for citizenship on the basis of my military service?

You can apply for citizenship on the basis of military service if you fall within any of the following classes.

  • You are in the armed forces (or will be filing your application within 5 months of an honorable discharge) AND you have served for at least 1 year AND you will be a Permanent Resident on the day of your Naturalization interview.
  • You were in the Armed Forces for less than 1 year OR you were in the Armed Forces for 1 year or more, but you were discharged more than 6 months ago. Under this class, you must also have 5 years as a Permanent Resident without leaving the U.S. for trips of 6 months or longer. Note: If you were out of the country as part of your service, this time out of the country does not break your "continuous residence." It is treated just like time spent in the United States.
  • You performed active duty military service during:
    • World War I (November 11, 1916-April 6, 1917);
    • World War II (September 1, 1939-December 31, 1946);
    • Korea (June 25, 1950-July 1, 1955);
    • Vietnam (February 28, 1961-October 15, 1978);
    • Persian Gulf (August 2, 1990-April 11, 1991);
    • On or after September 11, 2001; or
    • Any other period which the President, by Executive Order, has designated as a period in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or were engaged in military operations involving armed conflict with hostile foreign forces.
What is the naturalization oath ceremony?

If you are approved for naturalization, you will receive an N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony telling you when and where to attend your swearing in ceremony. On the back of the form will be several questions that you must answer before you check in at the ceremony.

In order to become a citizen, you will be required to take the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States during the ceremony. By taking the oath, you are agreeing to renounce foreign allegiances, to support the Constitution and to serve the United States.

The Oath of Allegiance is as follows:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose or evasion; so help me God.

USCIS may allow the following clause to be omitted:

"...that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law..."

You must take and fully understand the Oath of Allegiance in order to become a naturalized citizen of the United States.

What can I do if my social security card has been lost or stolen?

Replacement cards can be obtained for free. To get a replacement card you will need to fill out an Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5), provide a document verifying your identity, and show evidence of your current immigration status. The replacement card will have the same name and number as your previous card.

To obtain an Application for a Social Security Card, you can visit your local Social Security office, call 1-800-772-1213, or apply online at: http://www.ssa.gov/online/ss-5.html

Am I already a U.S. citizen by virtue of my parents being U.S. citizens?

You may already be a U.S. citizen if either or both of your parents are U.S. citizens. To be born a U.S. citizen you must fall into one of the following categories:

  • You were born in the United States including, in most cases, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (unless you were born to a foreign diplomat). Your birth certificate is proof of your citizenship; OR
  • You were born abroad to TWO U.S. citizens and at least one of your parents has lived in the United States at some point in his or her life; OR
  • You were born abroad to ONE U.S. citizen and:
    • One of your parents was a U.S. citizen when you were born;
    • Your citizen parent lived at least 5 years in the United States before you were born; and
    • At least 2 of these 5 years in the United States were after your citizen parents' 14th birthday.*

Your record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of your citizenship.

You may also apply for a passport to have your citizenship recognized. If you need additional proof of your citizenship, you may file an Application for Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600) with USCIS to get a Certificate of Citizenship.

Note: If you were born before November 14, 1986, you are a citizen if your U.S. citizen parent lived in the United States for at least 10 years and 5 of those years in the United States were after your citizen parents' 14th birthday.

What does "annulled" mean?

Annulment refers to a process whereby a court determines that your marriage never legally existed. There are two types of marriage that can be annulled in the United States.

  1. Void marriages are invalid from their outset. Because the law does not recognize such a union, there is no need for it to be formally dissolved. Examples of void marriages include incestuous marriages and when one of the parties is already married.
  2. Voidable marriages are held to be valid until and unless they are declared to be invalid by a court. An example of a voidable marriage is where one or both of the parties were intoxicated during the ceremony to the point where their consent could not have been given. Unless one of the parties challenges the marriage, it will be held to be valid.
How do I know if I qualify for a waiver based on my disability?

According to USCIS, an individual is eligible for this waiver if he or she is unable to learn and/or demonstrate knowledge of English and/or U.S. history and civics because of a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment (or combination of impairments). These disability and/or impairment(s) must result from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities, which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. The disability and/or impairment(s) must result in functioning so impaired as to render an individual unable to demonstrate the required knowledge. Additionally, the impairment must have lasted (or is expected to last) at least 12 months. Furthermore, physical and mental impairments arising directly from illegal drug use will not be considered when assessing waiver eligibility.

The law requires that in order to be eligible for the disability exception, the applicant must be unable to fulfill the requirements for English proficiency and/or knowledge of U.S. history and civics. An applicant's difficulty in fulfilling the requirements is not sufficient to support a waiver. In addition, illiteracy in the applicant's native language is not sufficient, by itself, to support a finding of inability to learn and/or demonstrate knowledge.

NOTE This definition of disability is different from the definition used by the Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, or worker's compensation programs.

Are there any special considerations if I am an elderly person?

If you are an elderly person, there may be special considerations available for you.

If you meet the following criteria, you do not have to write the English portion of the test but will still be required to write the government and history portion of the test.

  • You are over 50 years of age and have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for at least 20 years.
  • You are over 55 years of age and have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for at least 15 years.

If you meet the following criteria, you do not have to write the English portion of the test but will still be required to write the civics portion. However, your knowledge of history and government will be tested at a less demanding level.

  • You are over 65 years of age and have been residing in the U.S. subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for at least 20 years.
Are there any special considerations if I am a Hmong Veteran?

The Hmong Veterans' Naturalization Act of 2000, which became law on May 26, 2000, provides an exemption from the English language requirement and special consideration for civics testing for certain refugees from Laos applying for naturalization

You may be eligible to apply for the exemption and special consideration if you can answer "yes" to any of the following questions:

  • Were you admitted to the United States as a refugee from Laos (pursuant to section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act), AND did you support the United States military by serving with a special guerrilla unit (SGU), or irregular forces operating from a base in Laos at any time between February 28, 1961 through September 18, 1978? OR
  • Are you the widow of such a veteran described above who died or was killed in Laos, Thailand, or Vietnam and were you admitted to the United State as a refugee from Laos (pursuant to section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act)? OR
  • Were you married to such a veteran the day the veteran applied for admission into the United States as a refugee from Laos and were you admitted into the United State as a refugee from Laos (pursuant to section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act)?

Eligible applicants-including those who currently have pending naturalization applications-can request this benefit at the time of their naturalization interview. There are no additional forms to be completed and no additional fees if you qualify.

What is my race?

The following definitions of race have been issued by the United States Office of Management and Budget and was used in the 2000 U.S. Census.

  • White refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicated their race or races as "White" or wrote in entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab or Polish.
  • Black or African American refers to people having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. It includes people who indicated their race or races as "Black, African Am., or Negro", or wrote in entries such as African American, Afro American, Nigerian, or Haitian.
  • American Indian and Alaskan Native refer to people having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment. It includes people who indicated their race or races by marking this category or writing in their principal or enrolled tribe, such as Rosebud Sioux, Chippewa or Navajo.
  • Asian refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia or the Indian Subcontinent. It includes people who indicated their race or races as "Asian Indian", "Chinese", "Filipino", "Korean", "Japanese", "Vietnamese", or "Other Asian", or wrote in entries such as Burmese, Hmong, Pakistan, or Thai.
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. It includes people who indicated their race or races as "Native Hawaiian", "Guamanian or Chamorro", "Samoan", or "Other Pacific Islander", or wrote in entries such as Tahitian, Mariana Islander, or Chuukese.
  • Some other race refers to people who are unable to identify with the above five race categories. Respondents identifying themselves as Moroccan, South African, Belizean, or a Hispanic origin (for example, Mexican, Puerto Rican or Cuban) or even American are included in the "Some other race" category.
Will my children become U.S. citizens upon my naturalization?

A child who is:

  • born to a U.S. citizen who did not live in (or come to) the United States for a period of time prior to the child's birth, or
  • born to one U.S. citizen parent and one alien parent or two alien parents who naturalize after the child's birth, or
  • who is adopted and is permanently residing in the United States

can become a U.S. citizen by action of law on the date on which all of the following requirements have been met:

  • The child was lawfully admitted for permanent residence*, and
  • Either parent was a United States citizen by birth or naturalization**; and
  • The child was still under 18 years of age; and
  • The child was not married; and
  • The child was the parents' legitimate child or was legitimated by the parent before the child's 16th birthday (Stepchildren or children born out of wedlock who were not legitimated before their 16th birthday do not derive United States citizenship through their parents.); and
  • If adopted, the child met the requirements of section 101(b)(1)(E) or (F) and has had a full and final adoption; and
  • The child was residing in the United States in the legal custody of the U.S. citizen parent (this includes joint custody); and
  • The child was residing in the United States in the physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.

If you and your child meet all of these requirements, you may obtain a U.S. passport for the child as evidence of citizenship. If the child needs further evidence of citizenship, you may submit an Application for Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600) to USCIS to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship. (Note: a child who meets these requirements before his or her 18th birthday may obtain a passport of Certificate of Citizenship at any time, even after he or she turns 18). If the child meets the requirements of Section 322 of the Immigration and Nationality Act as a child residing outside the United States, you may submit an Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate under Section 322 (Form N-600K).

NOTE - Children who immigrated under the "IR-3" or "IR-4" categories must have had an immigrant petition filed on their behalf before their 16th birthday. All adoptions for any other type of immigration benefit, including naturalization, must be completed by the child's 16th birthday, with one exception: A child adopted while under the age of 18 years by the same parents who adopted a natural sibling who met the usual requirements.

NOTE - The "one U.S. citizen parent" rule applies only to children who first fulfilled the requirements for automatic citizenship (other than at birth abroad) on or after February 27, 2001. In order to qualify for automatic citizenship (other than at birth abroad) on or before February 26, 2001, all of the child's parents must have been United States citizens either at birth or through naturalization - both parents if the child had two parents; the surviving parent if a parent had died; the parent with legal custody if the parents were divorced or legally separated; or the mother only, if the child had been born out of wedlock and the child's paternity had not been established by legitimation.

Which organizations have been classified as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government?

U.S Department of State Current List of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (as of March 23, 2005)

  • Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
  • Abu Sayyaf Group
  • Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
  • Ansar al-Islam
  • Armed Islamic Group (GIA)
  • Asbat al-Ansar
  • Aum Shinrikyo
  • Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
  • Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army (CPP/NPA)
  • Continuity Irish Republican Army
  • Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group)
  • HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement)
  • Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)
  • Hizballah (Party of God)
  • Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)
  • Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) (Army of Mohammed)
  • Jemaah Islamiya organization (JI)
  • al-Jihad (Egyptian Islamic Jihad)
  • Kahane Chai (Kach)
  • Kongra-Gel (KGK, formerly Kurdistan Workers' Party, PKK, KADEK)
  • Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LT) (Army of the Righteous)
  • Lashkar i Jhangvi
  • Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
  • Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)
  • Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK)
  • National Liberation Army (ELN)
  • Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)
  • Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
  • Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLF)
  • PFLP-General Command (PFLP-GC)
  • al-Qa'ida
  • Real IRA
  • Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
  • Revolutionary Nuclei (formerly ELA)
  • Revolutionary Organization 17 November
  • Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)
  • Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC)
  • Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, SL)
  • Tanzim Qa'idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (QJBR) (al-Qaida in Iraq) (formerly Jama'at al-Tawhid wa'al-Jihad, JTJ, al-Zarqawi Network)
  • United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)
Are there any acts that will prevent me from being classified as a person of good moral character?

An applicant must show that he or she has been a person of good moral character for the statutory period (typically five years or three years if married to a U.S. citizen or one year for Armed Forces expedite) prior to filing for naturalization. However, USCIS is not limited to the statutory period in determining whether an applicant has established good moral character. An applicant is permanently barred from naturalization if he or she has ever been convicted of murder. An applicant is also permanently barred from naturalization if he or she has been convicted of an aggravated felony on or after November 29, 1990. A person also cannot be found to be a person of good moral character if during the last five years he or she:

  • has committed and been convicted of one or more crimes involving moral turpitude
  • has committed and been convicted of 2 or more offenses for which the total sentence imposed was 5 years or more
  • has committed and been convicted of any controlled substance law, except for a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana
  • has been confined to a penal institution during the statutory period, as a result of a conviction, for an aggregate period of 180 days or more
  • has committed and been convicted of two or more gambling offenses
  • is or has earned his or her principal income from illegal gambling
  • is or has been involved in prostitution or commercialized vice
  • is or has been involved in smuggling illegal aliens into the United States
  • is or has been a habitual drunkard
  • is practicing or has practiced polygamy
  • has willfully failed or refused to support dependents
  • has given false testimony, under oath, in order to receive a benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

An applicant must disclose all relevant facts to the Service, including his or her entire criminal history, regardless of whether the criminal history disqualifies the applicant under the enumerated provisions.

What does "deportation", "exclusion" and "removal" mean?

U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides the following definitions of deportation, removal and exclusion:

Deportation - The formal removal of an alien from the United States when the alien has been found removable for violating the immigration laws. Deportation is ordered by an immigration judge without any punishment being imposed or contemplated. Prior to April 1997 deportation and exclusion were separate removal procedures. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 consolidated these procedures. After April 1, 1997, aliens in and admitted to the United States may be subject to removal based on deportability. Now called Removal, this function is managed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Exclusion - Prior to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, exclusion was the formal term for denial of an alien's entry into the United States. The decision to exclude an alien was made by an immigration judge after an exclusion hearing. Since April 1, 1997, the process of adjudicating inadmissibility may take place in either an expedited removal process or in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

Removal - The expulsion of an alien from the United States. This expulsion may be based on grounds of inadmissibility or deportability.

 

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