If you’re wondering how to become a US citizen, the first step is usually to file an application for naturalization by filing Form N-400. This is how you begin the process of converting your Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) into a Certificate of Citizenship. However, the Department of Homeland Security has many eligibility requirements that Lawful Permanent Residents have to meet to qualify to begin the naturalization process.

In this guide, we’ll explore the main options available to obtain US citizenship, the requirements, the application process, costs, wait times, the benefits of becoming an American citizen, and all the other important things you need to know.

Benefits of U.S. Citizenship

Becoming a United States citizen is a significant milestone for immigrants who want to fully participate in American society and enjoy the rights and privileges that come with it. Being an American citizen offers numerous benefits, including the ability to vote in federal elections, run for public office, sponsor family members for immigration, and gain protection from deportation.

Becoming a US citizen comes with privileges, including many not available to Green Card holders, such as:

  • Voting rights: US citizens have the right to vote in federal, state, and local elections. Voting is a fundamental way to participate in the democratic process and shape the country’s future.
  • Eligibility for public office: US citizens can run for and hold public office at various levels of government, from local positions to the presidency. U.S. citizenship opens the door to leadership opportunities.
  • Sponsorship of relatives: US citizens can sponsor certain family members for immigration to the United States, including spouses, parents, children, and siblings. This can help reunite families.
  • Protection from deportation: US citizens aren’t subject to deportation due to immigration violations. They have the security of knowing they can’t be removed from the country based on their immigration status.
  • Access to federal benefits: Some federal benefits and programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, are available exclusively to US citizens.

Who is eligible to become a US citizen?

To become a naturalized citizen of the US, a foreign citizen must meet certain requirements outlined in the section below, many of which are based on the Nationality Act of 1940.

General Eligibility Requirements for a U.S. Citizenship Application

Age: You must be at least 18 years old at the time of filing your application.

Permanent resident status: Those who have been lawful permanent residents of the United States for at least five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen) before applying for U.S. citizenship could be eligible to become a U.S. citizen.

Continuous residence: Those who have continuously resided in the United States as lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders) for at least five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen) immediately preceding the date of filing the application.

Physical presence: You must have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the five years (or physically present for 18 months out of three years if married to a US citizen) immediately preceding the date of filing the application.

Good moral character: Applicants must demonstrate good moral character during the required period of residence, which includes avoiding criminal convictions and demonstrating financial responsibility. Good moral character is broadly defined as character that measures up to the standards of average citizens.

Your criminal history will be scrutinized during the process. Anyone who has been convicted of a crime, such as immigration fraud, domestic violence, or drug abuse, will likely encounter problems with their application. Anyone who is in this situation should seek legal assistance regarding their criminal history before applying for naturalization.

Medical examination: Applicants must pass a medical examination to ensure that they are not inadmissible to the United States.

Registration for selective service: Male applicants between the ages of 18 and 26 must register for Selective Service.

Attachment to the constitution: There's also a civics test requirement, which is one of the components of the U.S citizenship test. In this part of the test, you must demonstrate an understanding of and attachment to the principles of the US Constitution and be willing to bear arms (serve in the US military) on behalf of the United States and perform civilian service if required by law. You must answer six of ten questions (from a pool of 100) correctly to pass.

Ability to read, write, and speak basic English: The vast majority of applicants must demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking English by completing an English language test. Some exceptions are available based on age and length of residence. In the language section of the U.S. citizenship test, you must answer three of three questions correctly.

For both of these tests, there are certain circumstances where exemptions and accommodations can be made. To apply for these exemptions or accommodations because of physical or developmental disability or mental impairment, applicants should file Form N-648 ("the Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions").

Renunciation of allegiance to other countries: Applicants must renounce their allegiance to any foreign country and swear that they will only be loyal to the United States.

Knowledge of US government and history: Applicants must pass the civics test to demonstrate knowledge of US government and history.

Eligibility based on marriage to a US citizen

If you’re married to a US citizen, you may be eligible for an expedited naturalization process. In this case:

  • You must have been a lawful permanent resident for at least three years.
  • You must have been living in a marital union with your US citizen spouse for at least three years.
  • Your spouse must have been a US citizen for the entire three-year period.

Eligibility based on military service

US military service members and veterans may also be eligible for an expedited naturalization process. The requirements vary depending on whether service is during peacetime or wartime:

Peacetime military service individuals:

  • Generally, you must have served honorably in the US armed forces for at least one year.
  • You must be a lawful permanent resident at the time of your naturalization interview.

Wartime military service individuals:

  • There is no specific length of service requirement during periods of hostilities.
  • You must have been a lawful permanent resident at the time of your enlistment or induction into the US armed forces.

Military applicants will need to file Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service in order to apply.

Exceptions based on disability: Certain applicants with disabilities may be eligible for exceptions to the English and civics requirements.

Automatic citizenship for children: A child born to US citizen parents (including adoptive parents) outside the United States may automatically become an American citizen. At least one parent must have been a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth. Specific rules apply, and the child must meet certain conditions.

If you are a U.S. citizen outside the US and want to ensure that your child will be a U.S. citizen, you should apply for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad. A Consular Report of Birth Abroad is the official way to document US citizenship acquired at birth.

Citizenship Through Employment

Citizenship through employment, also known as employment-based naturalization, is a less common but viable path to becoming a US citizen. This route is generally available to foreign nationals who have worked in the United States under specific employment-based visas, such as H-1B for skilled workers or L-1 for intracompany transferees. Here’s how the process typically works:

Eligibility: To be eligible for citizenship through employment, you must have maintained a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status (a Green Card holder) in the United States for a specified period. The length of this period can vary depending on the specific employment-based visa category.

Continuous residence: During your Green Card tenure, you are required to maintain continuous residence in the United States. This means you should not spend extended periods outside the country while you are a Green Card holder.

Physical presence: Like other naturalization pathways, you must meet presence requirements, which entail residing in the US for a specific duration within the qualifying period.

Good moral character: As with all naturalization applicants, you must demonstrate good moral character throughout your period of permanent residence in the United States.

English language proficiency and civics knowledge: You are also subject to the English language and civics requirements, including passing the naturalization exam, which evaluates your knowledge of US government, history, and language skills.

Employment-based criteria: Specific employment-based categories may have their own unique criteria and requirements. For instance, some visa holders may need to work for the same employer for a specified number of years before being eligible for naturalization.

Permanent employment: You should have the intention to remain employed permanently in the United States. Naturalization under this category is often seen as the final step in integrating into American society for individuals who have pursued their careers and established themselves in the country.

Timing: It's essential to carefully plan your naturalization application to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria and timeframes associated with your employment-based visa.

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U.S. Citizenship By Investment (EB-5 Program)

In addition to employment-based naturalization, the United States also offers a path to citizenship through investment, known as the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. This program provides a means for foreign investors and their immediate family members to obtain U.S. citizenship by making a qualifying investment in a new commercial enterprise that creates jobs in the United States. Here are the key elements of the EB-5 Program:

Investment requirements: To be eligible for the EB-5 Program, foreign nationals must invest a specific amount of capital in a new commercial enterprise. The minimum investment amount varies depending on whether the investment is made in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA), which generally requires a lower investment, or a non-TEA.

Job creation: The investment must lead to the creation of at least ten full-time jobs for qualifying US workers within two years of the investor's admission to the United States as a conditional permanent resident.

Conditional permanent residency: Initially, successful EB-5 applicants and their immediate family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21) are granted conditional permanent residency, which is valid for two years.

I-829 Petition: Within the 90-day period immediately before the two-year anniversary of obtaining conditional permanent residency, the investor must file Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions, to demonstrate that the required jobs have been created and that the investment capital remains at risk.

Permanent residency: Once U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approves the I-829 petition, the investor and their family members become lawful permanent residents of the United States with full rights and privileges.

Naturalization: After holding permanent residency (a Green Card) for at least five years (including the two-year conditional period), EB-5 investors and their family members may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process, provided they meet all the standard naturalization requirements, including good moral character, physical presence, and English language proficiency.

The EB-5 Program provides an opportunity for investors and their families to not only secure permanent residency but also eventually obtain U.S. citizenship by contributing to job creation and economic growth in the United States through their investments. It’s a pathway that appeals to those seeking both immigration benefits and long-term business opportunities in the United States.

How to Get U.S. Citizenship: Application for Naturalization Process

Naturalization enables a Green Card holder to apply for citizenship and become a United States citizen. This is available to people who have been lawful permanent residents for three to five years, as well as those who meet various military service requirements.

Other requirements for applicants include proving intent to reside permanently in the United States and the ability to support themselves. Under a policy known as the U.S .citizenship waiver of residency requirement, those who apply for naturalization based on a period or type of military service don’t need to meet the continuous presence requirement. 

Submit an application:
Should you meet the naturalization requirements, you can apply by submitting Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and paying a filing fee to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is the organization responsible for U.S. citizenship and naturalization services. You can fill out a physical form and mail it or create an online account with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and file online.

In your application, you need to include your Green Card, two passport photos, and a copy of your marriage certificate or divorce decree (if applicable).

Attend a biometrics appointment:
If you are under 75 years old, you’ll need to attend an appointment to gather your biometric data, which includes fingerprinting to verify your identity. At the appointment, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will take a fingerprint scan, a photograph, and your signature. You must bring a valid form of ID, such as your passport, driver’s license, state-issued photo ID card, or military photo identification.

Naturalization interview:
The next step is to attend a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services interview at a USCIS office. You will need to bring your passport, marriage certificate (if applicable), tax returns for the past five years, and evidence of your continued residence in the US. In the interview, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer will ask you about your application, your character, your background, and your travel and immigration history.

United States Citizenship test:
Following the interview, you’ll have an English test. You’ll be tested on your ability to read, write, and speak basic English.

Then, you will have a civics test; you must answer six out of ten questions on US history and government correctly to pass the test.

Oath of Allegiance ceremony:
A few weeks after your naturalization interview, you can expect to receive a notification to participate in your Oath of Allegiance ceremony (also known as a naturalization ceremony), which is usually held at a local courthouse or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office. This naturalization ceremony is an important step in the process; you’ll pledge to uphold the US Constitution and US laws.

A Certificate of Naturalization, also known as a naturalization certificate, is a formal document issued by the US government to individuals who have successfully completed the naturalization process and become U.S. citizens. It serves as legal proof of U.S. citizenship and grants individuals full rights and privileges as US citizens.

How to get a Certificate of Naturalization:
After successfully passing the naturalization test and interview, USCIS will issue a Certificate of Naturalization. The certificate will be mailed to the applicant’s address within four to six weeks of the interview.

The Certificate of Naturalization serves as proof of U.S. citizenship and grants individuals several benefits, including:

  • Right to vote
  • Employment without restrictions
  • Social security benefits
  • Loan eligibility

How much does U.S. citizenship cost?

U.S. citizenship costs involve a variety of fees, payable to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which collects the fees on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security.

For an outline of the U.S. citizenship application fees, please see the table below.

Application Form



N-400, Application to Register Naturalization

Application to become a U.S. citizen.


N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship

Application for a Certificate of Citizenship for a child who was born abroad to U.S. citizen parents.


N-600K, Petition for a Child Under Age 18 to Register Under Section 322

Petition for a child under age 18 to register as a U.S. citizen based on the parent's naturalization.


N-600F, Application for Certificate of Citizenship for a Child Born Out of Wedlock Abroad

Application for a Certificate of Citizenship for a child born out of wedlock abroad to a U.S. citizen father.


N-601, Petition to Adjudicate Citizenship

Petition to adjudicate the citizenship status of an individual who may be a U.S. citizen based on the parent's naturalization or other factors.


N-601A, Application for Provisional Waiver of Inadmissibility

Application for a provisional waiver of inadmissibility to apply for citizenship, if the applicant is inadmissible due to criminal or other grounds.


I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

Application to adjust status to that of a lawful permanent resident (LPR).


N-400 Supplement A, English Language and Civics Test

English language and civics test for Form N-400.


N-400 Supplement B, Medical Examination Report

Medical examination report for Form N-400.


How much does It cost to apply for naturalization?

The cost to apply for naturalization is $725, which includes a $640 application fee and an $85 fee for biometrics, which are used to perform a criminal background check. There are some exemptions for the biometrics fee; for details, see the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

How long does it take to become a US citizen?

In general, the processing time for a naturalization application is about 10 months. However, the timeframe for an application to be processed can vary by several months depending on various factors, including the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office’s caseload, the applicant’s location, and other individual circumstances.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services provide processing time estimates on its website, but these times are subject to change and may not always reflect the current situation. Applicants are encouraged to check the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website for the most up-to-date information on processing times.

As the process of becoming U.S. citizen through naturalization begins when you file the N-400 form to apply for citizenship and ends when you take the Oath of Allegiance, the entire process can take longer, up to about two years.

How Can Global Citizen Solutions Help You?

Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique migration consultancy firm with years of experience delivering bespoke residence and citizenship by investment solutions for international families. With offices worldwide and an experienced, hands-on team, we have helped hundreds of clients worldwide acquire citizenship, residence visas, or homes while diversifying their portfolios with robust investments. 

We guide you from start to finish, taking you beyond your citizenship or residency by investment application. 

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Get U.S. Citizenship

Do I need an immigration lawyer for a naturalization application?

Because becoming a naturalized citizen can be complex and arduous, most applicants would benefit from consulting with an immigration lawyer to help you avoid common pitfalls in an application, but it’s not mandatory to. 

How many times can I apply to get United States citizenship?

There is no restriction on the number of times you can apply to become an American citizen, but you would need to pay the filing fee each time you submit an N-400 form. 

What documents should I bring to the naturalization interview?

When you go to the USCIS office for your interview, you should bring proof of identity, the necessary documentation of your legal status, and verification of the information you have provided in your application to become an American citizen. 

How much does it cost to become a US citizen?

The cost for applying for U.S. citizenship via the naturalization process is $725, which comprises $640 for processing the application and $85 for biometric services. These fees are not refundable, irrespective of whether the US government body, the Department of Homeland Security, approves or denies the application.

Does the US allow dual citizenship?

The US allows dual citizenship by default, and the Oath of Allegiance doesn’t address it explicitly.

A US Supreme Court opinion affirms that one can have rights in two countries and be subject to their responsibilities.

However, many countries do not recognize dual citizenship (or multiple citizenships), and some may automatically revoke your citizenship upon becoming an American citizen. It’s crucial to know the rules in your country of origin before pursuing U.S. citizenship.

How can an immigration lawyer help me with a U.S. citizenship application?

An immigration lawyer can assist you with your application by providing legal expertise, ensuring your application is complete and accurate, and helping you navigate the complex immigration laws and requirements.

They can help you gather necessary documents, represent you in legal proceedings, address any issues that may arise during the process, and increase your chances of a successful application.

Can you apply for U.S. citizenship if you have a Green Card?

Yes, having a Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) is a prerequisite for applying to become an American citizen. To become an American citizen, applicants generally need to have been Green Card holders for at least five years (or three years if married to an American citizen), meet residency and other requirements, and follow the naturalization process.

Can I maintain my Green Card while applying for U.S. citizenship?

Yes, Green Card holders must maintain their Green Card during the U.S. citizenship application process. It’s important to ensure you meet the required residency and presence criteria to both maintain your Green Card status and pursue U.S. citizenship simultaneously.

How long does it take to become a US citizen?

The naturalization process for U.S. citzenship takes approximately 18 to 24 months following the three-to-five-year period of being a Green Card holder, but the timeline may vary.

How much does it cost to become a US citizen?

The naturalization application fee amounts to $725, comprising two charges: a $640 filing fee for the mandatory application form, and an $85 fee for the biometrics appointment. This fee is payable online if you file form N-400 online.

How hard is it to become a US citizen?

Becoming a US citizen can be a challenging process, but the difficulty varies depending on individual circumstances. Generally, it involves meeting residency and physical presence requirements, passing an English and civics test, demonstrating good moral character, and completing paperwork.

While it can be demanding, many successfully navigate the process with proper preparation, legal assistance, and dedication to meeting the requirements.

How can I become a US citizen from Canada?

To become a US citizen from Canada, you typically need to be a permanent resident (Green Card holder) for at least five years, demonstrate good moral character, pass English and civics tests, and submit the application for naturalization to USCIS, an organization under the Department of Homeland Security. Spouses of US citizens may qualify sooner.

What is the process of applying for American citizenship through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and how can one find out more information?

To apply to become an American citizen through USCIS, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security, you must complete and submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. You can find out more information and resources related to the application process on the USCIS website.

What are the 4 types of U.S. citizenship?

  1. U.S. citizenship by birth: A person born on U.S. soil (including the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands) is automatically a U.S. citizen according to the jus soli principle. A principle known as jus sanguinis (right of blood) or derivative citizenship applies to persons born to a U.S. citizen parent or grandparent, but certain conditions apply. It’s worth noting that step parents can’t confer U.S. citizenship

  2. U.S. citizenship through naturalization: You can apply for U.S. citizenship if you have had lawful permanent resident status (LPR status) for at least five years, are of good moral character, meet English and civics requirements, and have paid taxes.

  3. U.S. citizenship through marriage: If you marry a U.S. citizen and meet certain requirements, you may be eligible for U.S. citizenship after three years of marriage.

  4. U.S. citizenship through military service: If you serve honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces for at least one year, you may be eligible for U.S. citizenship after completing basic training.

How do I become a citizen of the United States?

The specific process for becoming a U.S. citizen varies depending on the type of U.S. citizenship you are seeking. However, the general steps involve filing an application form, passing background checks, submitting required documentation, and attending an interview with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer.

What qualifies you for U.S. citizenship?

You must meet certain eligibility criteria to become a U.S. citizen, including:

  1. Legal residency: You must have been a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) for a specified period, typically five years for naturalization.

  2. Good moral character: You must be of good moral character and have no criminal record.

  3. English language proficiency: You must demonstrate basic English language proficiency, typically through a standardized test.

  4. Civics knowledge: You must demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and government, typically through a standardized test.

  5. Absence of certain bars to citizenship: You must not be ineligible for citizenship due to specific factors, such as a history of mental illness or drug addictio

What is the fastest way to get U.S. citizenship?

The fastest way to get U.S. citizenship is through marriage, if you meet all the requirements. You can apply for U.S. citizenship after three years of marriage, compared to five years for naturalization through residency.