How to become a U.S. citizen

• Citizenship is granted to anyone born in the United States. The only exception is that the child must be the subject of the jurisdiction of the United States, meaning that children born to foreign diplomats or sovereigns are not U.S. citizens.

• Citizenship can also be obtained through naturalization after meeting certain requirements, including being 18 years of age and having been physically present in the U.S. for at least five years.

• Those seeking naturalization submit an application, including photographs and proof of residence along with an application and fingerprinting fee. The applicant is then fingerprinted and their background is checked by the FBI. It can take between six months and a year from when the application is filed to when an interview and test are scheduled.

• The applicant must also demonstrate "good moral character" during their residence in the United States. The U.S. Immigration Act lists certain offenses that would preclude an applicant from establishing good moral character. These would include such crimes as murder, aggravated felonies, certain gambling, drunk-driving and prostitution offenses.

An applicant may also be found not to be a person of good moral character if he or she willfully failed to support dependents, committed adultery which destroyed a viable marriage, or willfully and knowingly failed to register with the Selective Service if required to do so. The applicant must also continue to demonstrate this character from the time the application is filed until the swearing in ceremony.

• Applicants for naturalization must also be able to read, write and speak the English language. All applicants are required to pass an oral test on the history and government of the United States. From a standardized list of approximately 95 questions, 10 questions are asked, and the applicant must answer at least six correctly.

• If the application is approved, the applicant then takes part in an swearing in ceremony, swears allegiance to the country and becomes a full citizen. The applicant swears to be attached to the principles of the Constitution and be favorably disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States.


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