How to Become a US Citizen

What Does It Take to Become a US Citizen?

( – Obtaining US citizenship is a serious business, so serious that Congress has exclusive power over the process. Neither the courts nor the states can prescribe or alter the requirements for citizenship.

The pathway to obtaining citizenship is a straightforward process established by the Founders in the US Constitution. However, there are several requirements applicants must meet before filing an Application for Naturalization.

General requirements call for the applicant to:

  • be at least 18 years old at the time of filing;
  • be a lawfully admitted permanent resident of the United States for at least five years, or three years if the applicant is the spouse of a US citizen;
  • have demonstrated continuous permanent residency and physical presence in the United States;
  • have lived for three months within the state or US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) district before filing their application; and
  • have demonstrated they have “good moral character.”

Additionally, applicants must make an appointment with the USCIS for the collection of biometrics data. During that appointment, applicants will be fingerprinted, photographed, and asked to sign their names for inclusion in an electronic database.

Applicants will also need to pass a naturalization test conducted during an interview with a USCIS representative and must take an Oath of Allegiance.

Passing the Naturalization Exam

The naturalization test includes an English and civics examination. The English portion of the test consists of three components: reading, speaking, and writing.

The civics portion tests applicants’ knowledge of American government, history, and integrated civics.

Applicants have two chances to pass the civics exam. If they fail, they may schedule a reexamination 60 to 90 days later.

Test questions that many Americans wouldn’t know include:

  • How many constitutional amendments are there?
  • How many voting members serve in the House of Representatives?
  • Identify one of the four amendments in the Constitution covering voter eligibility.
  • Name one of the writers of the Federalist Papers.
  • What was the primary American concern during the Cold War?

American citizenship is a birthright for those of us fortunate enough to be born here, but it is a privilege for those immigrating from elsewhere. Only those who love the country enough to study and learn about it will qualify for citizenship.

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