Becoming a United States Citizen
How much does it cost to file an application for citizenship?
How long must I be in the United States before I can become a U.S. citizen?
In order to become a U.S. citizen you must reside in the United States as a permanent resident continuously for five years. An exception to this rule is if you are married to, and living with the same U.S. citizen spouse you can qualify after only three years.
What are the advantages of becoming a U.S. citizen?
There are many advantages to becoming a U.S. citizen. Among them are:
- You can vote for the politician of your choice and have full participation in United States democracy. Remember, as a voter, the politicians will listen to you.
- You can run for any public office, except President and Vice President.
- As a U.S. citizen, you are eligible for all state and federal jobs, and other jobs where U.S. citizenship is required.
- You can have access to more types of public assistance.
- Unlike other immigration papers, you never have to renew your citizenship certificate.
- If you become a citizen before your children turn 18, in most cases they also become citizens and receive benefits that all citizens are entitled to.
- You can help more of your family members come to the United States. In addition to your spouse and unmarried children, you can also petition for your parents, married children, siblings (married or single), and fiancé. In most cases unmarried children get permanent residence faster if the parents are U.S. citizens than if the parents are permanent residents. If you would like free assistance with your relative petition, please visit one of our immigration centers.
- Finally, you have the privilege of traveling in and out of the United States more freely and you enjoy the benefits of holding a U.S. Passport.
What does the citizenship test consist of?
You must know about basic U.S. history and government, and be able to speak, read, and write simple English.
Do I need to be able to speak English to become a U.S. citizen?
Yes, you must be able to read, write, and speak simple English. There are some exceptions for some older and long-time residents, and for some disabled permanent residents.
If I legalized through the amnesty program when can I apply for citizenship?
If you legalized through the amnesty program you are eligible for naturalization five years after the date you were granted permanent residence, NOT temporary residence.
Are there any reasons why I could be barred from obtaining citizenship?
Yes! You should see an immigration attorney or other legal counselor in any of the following situations:
- You have been convicted of a crime.
- You have ever lied to an immigration officer, consular official, or government official.
- You married solely to obtain residency status.
- Since becoming a lawful permanent resident, you have been absent from the United States for long periods of time, especially periods over one year.
- You have ever been arrested.
- You failed to file an income tax return for any year since becoming a lawful permanent resident.
- You owe child support
If I have ever been arrested, what should I do before seeing an immigration counselor?
Before seeing the counselor, you should do the following:
- Get a Certificate of Good Conduct. In New York City this is obtained at One Police Plaza, Room 152A (downtown Manhattan near the Brooklyn Bridge) (646-610-5541). A money order for $30 † and a passport, Alien Registration Card or Employment Authorization will be required.
- Get a Certificate of Disposition for every arrest. This is obtained from the Court Clerk in the county where you were arrested. Make sure to have photo I.D., $10 † (exact change only), and if possible, the docket number and date of arrest. You should have one Certificate of Disposition for each time you have ever been arrested.
- If you do not know where you were arrested or if you were arrested outside of the United States, you can get a criminal record search. In New York City this is done at the Office of Court Administration, 25 Beaver Street, 8th floor, NYC (212-428-2943). Make sure to have your full name and date of birth. A $55 † fee, payable by check or money order only, and an e-mail address or self-addressed postage paid envelope will be required. It is recommended that you then get a Certificate of Disposition for every arrest listed in the criminal record search. For arrests outside of the United States, contact your embassy to determine how to do so.
- If an incident has occurred with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), get a record of summons. In New York City this is obtained at the NYC Transit Adjudication Bureau, 505 Fulton Street, 6th floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201 (347-643-5805). A $10 † fee, government issued ID, and Social Security Card will be required.
† Fees listed as of July 2012 . Contact the corresponding agency for updated fees.