How to Apply for U.S. Citizenship

Learn the steps for becoming a U.S. citizen including how to apply, sample test questions and what is the naturalization process. Also, find information on dual citizenship, how to get proof of your U.S. citizenship if you were born abroad or replace your lost or stolen citizenship certificate.

U.S. Citizenship through Naturalization

Becoming a citizen through naturalization is a process in which a non-U.S. citizen voluntarily becomes an American citizen. U.S. citizens owe their allegiance to the United States and are entitled to its protection and to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens.

Review this visual overview about the general naturalization process.

To become a U.S. citizen, you must:

  • Have had a Permanent Resident (Green) Card for at least five years, or for at least three years if you’re filing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen
    • If you apply for naturalization less than six months before your Permanent Resident Card expires, or do not apply for naturalization until your card has already expired, you must renew your card.
    • You can apply for naturalization before you receive your new Green Card, but you’ll need to submit a photocopy of the receipt of your Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, when you receive it.
  • Meet certain eligibility requirements including being
    • At least 18 years old at the time of filing
    • Able to read, write, and speak basic English
    • A person of good moral character
  • Go through the ten step naturalization process which includes
    • Determining your eligibility to become an American citizen
    • Preparing and submitting form N-400, the application for naturalization
    • Taking the U.S. Naturalization Test and having a personal interview

Helpful Resources For Citizenship  

Take the United States Naturalization Test

One of the requirements in the naturalization process is taking the United States Naturalization Test.

To prepare for the naturalization test, check out these resources:

Certificates of Citizenship and Naturalization

Certificates of Citizenship and Naturalization are proof of your U.S. citizenship.

Get a Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization

Apply for a Certificate of Citizenship if you were born abroad to U.S. citizen parents and they did not obtain a Consular Report of Birth Abroad for you before you turned 18.  

Foreign nationals receive a Certificate of Naturalization when they become American citizens. Get certified copies of a Certificate of Naturalization.

Replace Your Certificates

Replace your Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization if it was lost or stolen using form N-565.

If you have further questions, contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Dual Citizenship or Nationality

Dual citizenship (or dual nationality) means a person may be a citizen of the United States and of another country at the same time. U.S. law does not require a person to choose one citizenship or another.

If you are a citizen of another country and have questions about that country's laws,  policies, and mandatory military service, contact that country's embassy or consulate.

For information on dual nationality from the point of view of another country, please contact that country's embassy or consulate.  

If you have dual citizenship and plan to travel to or from the United States, you must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States.

Information about giving up or losing your U.S. citizenship is also available.

A licensed attorney skilled in citizenship matters can assist you with questions about your situation. A local bar association can often provide a good referral.

Establish Citizenship Without a Birth Certificate

If you were born in the U.S. and there is no birth certificate on file, you will need several different documents to prove your citizenship:

If you were born outside the United States and your U.S. parent(s) did not register your birth at the U.S. Embassy or consulate, you may apply for a U.S. passport, but you will need:

  • Your foreign birth record showing your parents' names
  • Evidence of your parent(s) U.S. citizenship
  • Your parents' marriage certificate

If you were born outside the U.S. and your U.S. parent(s) registered your birth with a U.S. Embassy, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) will be able to help you get a copy of a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240).

U.S. Citizenship for People Born Abroad or in U.S. Territories

You are a U.S. citizen if:

  • You have a birth certificate issued by a U.S. state or territory. If you were born in a U.S. territory, but do not have a birth certificate issued by that territory, you may be able to verify your citizenship status using other documents.
  • You were born outside of the U.S. to at least one U.S. citizen parent and your parent(s) recorded your birth with the U.S. Embassy or consulate in that country:

Learn more about births of U.S. citizens abroad.

Infographic: Pathway to Citizenship Steps

This infographic provides a step-by-step guide on the naturalization process for a person to become a U.S. citizen.

Pathway to Citizenship steps.See description of infographic below.

Pathway to Citizenship steps.See description of infographic below. View a larger version of the infographic.

  • For an adult immigrant to become  a U.S. citizen, he or she must go through the process of naturalization. GENERAL requirements for naturalization call for the immigrant to:

    • Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400

    • Be lawfully admitted permanent resident of the United States

    At the time of the filing the application, have been a permanent resident in the United States for at least for five years OR for at least three years if you meet all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a United States citizen

    • Have demonstrated continuous permanent residence

    • Have demonstrated physical presence

    • Have lived within the State or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services District for at least three months prior to filing

    • Have demonstrated good moral character

    • Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution

    • Demonstrate an ability to read, write, speak and understand basic English

    • Demonstrate a basic knowledge of  U.S. history, government, and civic principles

    • Take an oath of allegiance to the United States

    • Receive a Certificate of Naturalization

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Last Updated: March 25, 2019