How Can I Become a U.S. Citizen?

Becoming a U.S. citizen is a dream for many individuals around the world. Most people will first become a “permanent resident” (another way of saying having your green card) for a certain amount of time before actually becoming a citizen. Keep reading to learn more about the general process and requirements for becoming a legal citizen of the United States of America.


There are three separate ways a person can become a “naturalized citizen” and obtain a green card: The first is through your family. A family member in the United States can sponsor you. If your family member is a U.S. citizen, then they can sponsor their spouse, unmarried children under twenty-one years of age, parents and siblings. The second way is through your employment. If you get offered permanent employment in the U.S, you would then be eligible to petition to get a green card. You can also become a U.S. citizen by serving in the military. The final way is by being a refugee or asylum seeker. After you have been given refugee or asylum seeker status and have lived in the United States for one year, you can apply for your green card.

What Are the General Requirements for Citizenship?

While the requirements listed below may vary slightly depending on the type of visa you are entering the U.S. on, the general requirements can be found below:

  • Be 18 years of age or older.
  • Have been a permanent resident for 3 years (if married to a citizen) or 5 years (if not married to a citizen).
  • Have continuously lived in the US during that period.
  • Have been a resident of the state where you are applying for at least 3 months.
  • Be of good moral character.
  • Be proficient in English and American civics.

What Happens Next?

If you have lawfully entered the United States and meet the above requirements, you can then apply for naturalization. Once you have filed your application, you will then be required to attend an interview.  A USCIS (U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services) officer will question you about your background and application. You will also take your English and civics test at the interview. However, you may not be asked to take an English language test if your proficiency with the English language is determined strong enough during your interview.

If your interview and application are approved, the final step to becoming a U.S. citizen is to swear the Oath of Allegiance. You’ll receive Form 455, which will tell you where and when to take the oath. You must answer the questions on the back of this form and review them with an officer when you attend your naturalization ceremony.


While the requirements for naturalization may seem straight fairly straight forward, there are various reasons why the government could deny an application for naturalization. The Center for Criminal and Immigration Law is a boutique law firm in Virginia that specializes in  immigration and criminal law. Contact them today if you believe you are planning to apply for naturalization to make sure you don’t hit any roadblocks to becoming an American citizen.

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