Citizenship Information

Benefits of U.S. Citizenship

Naturalization Requirements

The Naturalization Process

Additional Information

Benefits of U.S. Citizenship

Upon becoming a U.S. Citizen, you will receive the following benefits:

  • The right to vote, serve on juries, and be elected to public office.
  • A louder voice and ability to be involved in government decisions which affect you and your family.
  • The ability to sponsor family members to immigrate to the United States and/or immigrate to the United States more quickly than those sponsored by permanent resident family members.
  • Automatically gain United States citizenship for children who are under 18 years old when a parent becomes a citizen.
  • Travel and live overseas without worrying about losing your legal status in the United States or obtaining a reentry permit.
  • No fear of deportation. Unlike people with green cards, United States citizens and their children who become citizens with them cannot be deported from or denied entry to the United States. People with green cards may be deported for committing crimes or lose their green cards for staying outside of the United States for too long.
  • More employment opportunities. Many federal government and private jobs require United States citizenship.
  • Access to public benefits. United States citizens are eligible for public benefits that non-citizen immigrants, including green card holders, are not eligible for.
  • Less paperwork concerns as, unlike green card holders, United States citizens do not ever need to renew their status or tell the USCIS if they move.
  • The right to own a gun. Most non-citizens are not allowed to own guns, including for hunting purposes.

Naturalization Requirements

To be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old (children under 18 years old can automatically become U.S. citizens when their parents become citizens).
  • Have been a legal permanent resident (a green card holder) for at least the last five years (or three years, if married to a U.S. citizen). Have been continuously living in the U.S. for at least five years (or three years, if married to a U.S. citizen).*
  • Have been physically present in the United States for at least a total of two years and six months during the past five years (or one year and six months if married to a U.S. citizen).
  • Have not been outside of the United States for more than one year at a time during the past five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen).
  • Be able to speak, read and write conversational English.**
  • Be able to pass a U.S. civics and history exam.**
  • Be a person of “good moral character”.***
  • Be willing to take an oath of loyalty to the U.S. (an oath of willingness to support and defend the U.S. and our constitution).

* Some members of the armed services may be eligible to apply sooner than these time periods.

** Some individuals with disabilities may be eligible to waive the English and civics and history testing requirements. Also, some individuals age 50 years and older may be eligible to waive the English test and complete the interview in their native language. See below for more details.

***There are some situations where one should be very careful about making the decision to apply for U.S. citizenship. You should obtain legal advice if you have been arrested for, convicted of or involved in a crime; lived outside of the United States for more than six months since becoming a green card holder; are currently in or have been in deportation proceedings; voted or registered to vote in a U.S. election; falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen; failed to pay taxes or paid as a non-resident; did not register for the Selective Service if required; or failed to support your children. These things do not necessarily meant that you cannot apply for U.S. citizenship but you should clarify your situation with an immigration attorney first. For many of these situations, the Washington New Americans program may be able to assist you with talking with a volunteer immigration attorney or accredited immigration representative at no cost. Sign up today to receive assistance or call us toll-free at 1-877-WA.NEWCI(TIZEN) or 1-877-926-3924.

The Naturalization Process

To naturalize and become a United States citizen, an applicant will complete the naturalization application form, gather supporting documents and the filing fee, file the application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, complete a background check (including having your fingerprints taken), and pass a naturalization interview. The interview is conducted in English and the applicant will complete a written English test and a civics and history examination. Upon passing the interview, the applicant is scheduled for a “swearing in” ceremony where the applicant takes an Oath of Allegiance and is granted naturalization.

There are some exceptions to this process. Some individuals with disabilities may be eligible to apply for a disability waiver that would waive the requirements to complete the English test and civics and history examination. Individuals who have been permanent residents for at least 20 years and are at least 50 years old and individuals who have been permanent residents for at least 15 years and are at least 55 years old are eligible to complete the interview and civics and history testing in their native language and do not have to take the written English test.

The filing fee for naturalization for most people is $680.00, which covers the $595.00 filing fee and $85.00 fingerprinting fee. Individuals 75 years and older are not required to be fingerprinted and so pay $595.00. Low income individuals with extreme financial hardship situations may be eligible for a fee waiver of the filing fee.

Let Washington New Americans help you! The process of applying for naturalization can be confusing. Washington New Americans can help you at no cost to navigate the application process and successfully become naturalized. Sign up for assistance or call us toll-free at 1-877-WA.NEWCI(TIZEN) or 1-877-926-3924.

Additional Information