Naturalization (Natz)

Qualifying LPRs may obtain U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process, which involves three key components: (1) continuous residence in the U.S. for the past five years; (2) physical presence in the U.S. for at least two and a half years and (3) good moral character.[1]  When the LPR adjusted based upon marriage to a USC, the residence and physical presence requirements are three years and one and a half years respectively, assuming the marriage remains intact.[2]

8 CFR 316.5(a) defines “residence” as the alien’s “domicile” or “principal actual dwelling place.”  An LPR’s absence from the U.S. for more than one year disrupts the continuous residence requirement.[3]  Moreover, an absence exceeding six months creates a rebuttable presumption against compliance with the residence requirement.[4]

The physical requirement is self-explanatory.  The N-400 Application for Naturalization requires the LPR to itemize all time spent outside the U.S. for the past five years.

An alien seeking to Natz must also demonstrate good moral character for the past five years (or three for a USC’s spouse).[5]  8 CFR 316.10(b) provides a non-exclusive list of different crimes and misconduct showing bad moral character.  Some examples include the failure to pay child support, extramarital affairs, prostitution, polygamy, illegal gambling, false testimony, certain drug convictions, and convictions leading to combined sentences totaling five years or more.

A person convicted of murder or an “aggravated felony” as defined under INA 101(a)(43) is permanently barred from Natz.[6]

In order to apply for Natz, the LPR must file an N-400 Application for Naturalization with CIS, along with supporting evidence.  The N-400 includes detailed inquiries about the applicant’s history, including residences, physical presence in the U.S., and moral character.  Following its initial review, CIS transfers the application to the field office, which schedules an interview.

At the interview, the examining officer verifies the information on the N-400 and briefly tests the applicant’s knowledge of English and U.S. civics.  Assuming the applicant passes the tests and otherwise qualifies, the officer approves the N-400 and notifies the applicant about the oath ceremony.  At the oath ceremony, a federal judge swears in the applicant, who then receives a Certificate of Naturalization.

[1] INA 316(a).

[2] 8 CFR 319.1(a).

[3] 8 CFR 316.5(c)(1)(ii).

[4] 8 CFR 316.5(c)(1)(i).

[5] INA 316(a)(3).

[6] 8 CFR 316.10(b)(1)(i) through (ii).

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