The Catholic University of America

Becoming a Citizen of the United States

Many permanent residents want to become citizens of the U.S. This is not an automatic process. It is one that must be applied for. Individuals who have been U.S. permanent residents for a certain period of time are eligible to apply for citizenship.

Naturalization is considered to be a personal application. Catholic University does not sponsor anyone for citizenship. ISSS cannot provide any legal guidance in this area, but provides the information on this site as a tool to assist CUA employees interested in becoming U.S. citizens to help find the information they will need. USCIS has published a Guide for New Immigrants which discusses some of the requirements for gaining U.S. citizenship. The chapter entitled "Becoming a U.S. Citizen" is particularly helpful. They have also produced a Guide to Naturalization.

Timeline for being eligible for U.S. Citizenship

Once someone becomes a permanent resident they are well on the path towards becoming a U.S. citizen if they so choose. Generally speaking, an individual must meet certain eligibility requirements before being able to submit their application:

  1. Must be at least 18 years old
  2. Must be a permanent resident of the U.S.
  3. Must maintain continuous U.S. residency for a certain period of time. It should be noted that extended absences outside the U.S. could "resent the clock" for determining eligiblity for citizenship:

    Obtained permanent residency as …

    … is eligible for naturalization in

    Spouse of U.S. citizen

    3 years

    All other avenues

    5 years

  4. Must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half the period required for eligiblity immediately preceding the application for Naturalization; and
  5. Must have lived for at least three months in the immigration district where the application is filed for the six months immediately preceding the submission of the application for naturalization.
  6. must be of good moral character
  7. must be prepared to take an oath of allegiance to the U.S.

Language and Citizenship Test

Applicants for U.S. citizenship are required to demonstrate a proficiency in the English language, though certain exceptions exist based on age, medical condition, etc. Additionally, applicants are tested on their knowledge of U.S. history, form of government, and the Constitution. The USCIS website contains information about the language test as well as the citizenship test along with study guides and tools to help prepare for the tests.