Citizenship is the ultimate immigration status. Citizens can travel with U.S. passports, sponsor relatives for green cards, access U.S. federal benefits and jobs, and much more. The citizenship application process, however, is complicated.

To become a citizen, you must either be eligible for citizenship through your parents or spend five years as a permanent resident and meet several other requirements. Read through the guide below to learn the citizenship requirements, timeline, and application process.

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U.S. Citizenship Eligibility Requirements

There are 2 basic paths to citizenship: (1) through your parents, and (2) through the naturalization process.

Citizenship through Parents

The are two paths to citizenship through parents—one at birth and the other after birth but before age 18. Note that if you were born in the U.S., whether or not your parents are citizens,  you are a citizen.

To qualify for citizenship if you were born overseas to a U.S. citizen parent or parents, check the USCIS guidelines. In general, you must prove your parent’s citizenship and ensure they meet other basic qualifications. If you qualify, you will apply for a Certificate of Citizenship.

Citizenship through Naturalization

The requirements for naturalization can differ depending on your situation, in particular, if you are married to a U.S. citizen or if you served in the U.S. military. However, most applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
  • Be a permanent resident (have a “Green Card”) for at least 5 years.
  • Show that you have lived for at least 3 months in the state or USCIS district where you apply.
  • Demonstrate continuous residence in the United States for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400.
  • Show that you have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400.
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English.
  • Have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
  • Be a person of good moral character.
  • Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution.

See if you qualify by taking FileRight.com’s free citizenship eligibility quiz.

When Can I Apply for Citizenship?

You can apply for citizenship as soon as you meet the eligibility requirements, many of which are time-related. Generally, you can apply when:

  • You are 18 years old
  • You have been a permanent resident for 5 years
  • You have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400

How To Apply for Citizenship

To apply for citizenship through naturalization you must file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

Ready to apply for citizenship now? Apply for citizenship with FileRight.com. We provide do-it-yourself software and lawyer review services to help you properly complete the immigration application process.