Frequently Asked Questions
about Citizenship & Naturalization

What are the benefits of becoming a U.S. Citizen?

Voting. Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal, state, and local elections.  If you are a permanent resident of the United States and want to have a voice in elections then you should petition to become a citizen.

Participation and Opportunity. As a U.S. citizen, you will not only have the opportunity to vote, but also to run for public office and to be a member of a jury.  Additionally, as a U.S. citizen you will be able to qualify for certain government jobs and scholarships.

Benefits. As a U.S. citizen you will have more access to public benefits than as a permanent resident.  This includes payments of social security.

Immigration of Immediate Relatives. As a U.S. citizen you are in a better position to help your immediate relatives come to the United States and become lawful permanent residents themselves.

Why do I need a lawyer to help me with my application?

Many individuals do not use a lawyer and succeed in their naturalization applications.  MANY DO NOT.  The naturalization process can quickly deteriorate if not handled correctly.  Deterioration of the process can cause delays, and often, denial.  Increasingly, many individuals who are denied naturalization are placed in removal proceedings.  Thus, individuals who are one step away from citizenship often find themselves being removed from the United States after a failed naturalization application.

How Long is the Process to Obtain U.S. Citizenship?

The length of the citizenship process is dependent upon where the applicant is located within the United States.  Generally speaking, an application citizenship takes about six to seven months to process.  To find out how long applications are taking in your region of the United States,  please visit the USCIS’s list of field office processing times.

How Long must I be a Permanent Resident in the United States before I Apply for Citizenship?

In most instances, a person must be a lawful permanent resident for five years before becoming a citizenship.  However, spouses of U.S. Citizens can become a U.S. citizen after three years of being a lawful permanent resident.  In special circumstances, the period might also be shorter than five years (i.e. being a member of the armed forces).

Do I have to wait until the five-year or three-year mark before applying for citizenship?

No, you do not have to wait until the five or three year mark.  You can apply up to 90 days before you become eligible for Citizenship.

Is there any age limitations on becoming a U.S. Citizen?

In most instances, a person must be 18 before they can become a naturalized U.S. citizen.  There is no upper limit to becoming a U.S. citizen.

Does the United States allow for dual citizenship with other countries?

Yes, the United States allows individuals to possess dual citizenship.  Although the United States is not fond of dual citizenship, it realizes that it is a part of long established international law.  A person interested in dual citizenship must ensure that the other country also allows for dual citizenship.

Who must be registered with the Selective Service?

Only males who are between the ages of 18 and 26 are required to register with the Selective Service.  Additionally, a person need not register if he is outside of the United States or a lawful nonimmigrant resident.  Not registering with the Selective Service does not permanently bar an applicant from becoming a naturalized citizen, but it may cause problems and should be handled delicately.

What does Good Moral Character Mean and Why is it Important?

To be eligible for citizenship, a person must demonstrate that they have good moral character.  Good Moral Character can be demonstrated by NOT doing the following:

  • committing a crime involving moral turpitude
  • committing two or more offenses which result in conviction and the aggregate sentence imposed exceeds five years
  • violating a controlled substance law
  • admitting to have committed a crime described above, but never being formally charged, indicted, arrested or convicted
  • being confined to a penal institution (jailed) for an aggregate of 180 days pursuant to a conviction
  • giving false testimony to gain immigration benefit
  • being involved in prostitution
  • being involved in smuggling a person or persons into the U.S.
  • practicing polygamy
  • committing two or more gambling offenses
  • having earned income principally from illegal gambling activities
  • having been a habitual drunkard
  • by willfully failing to support dependent family members
  • committing adultery causing break-up of a family
  • failing to register for Selective Service
  • failing to file or pay income taxes
Are there any individuals who are barred from becoming Citizens?

Yes, including:

  • deserters of the armed forces
  • advocates of anarchy
  • advocates of communism within past ten years
  • individuals facing a removal order, except in certain military service naturalization
Must the applicant be able to speak, read and write English?

In most cases, the applicant must speak, read and write English.  However, exemptions to this requirement include if the applicant has a physical disability or mental impairment, if the applicant is over 50 years old and has resided in the United States as a permanent resident for over 20 years, or if the applicant is over 55 years old and has resided in the U.S. as a permanent resident for over 15 years.

What type of questions should I expect on the Civics and Government part of the Naturalization Test?

The USCIS has developed extensive study guides for the naturalization exam.  Generally applicants do not need to buy or use any additional study guides besides those provided by the USCIS.  Additionally, the firm discusses the examination on its website.