Citizenship FAQs

Question 1. What are the basic requirements for naturalization (filing for U.S. citizenship)?

The statute (the letter of the law) provides that, in order to file a naturalization application, an applicant must:

a. be an LPR (lawful permanent resident, i.e., green card holder; exception if served in war for the U.S.).

b. be 18 years of age or older.

c. be a resident continuously for five years, subsequent to LPR status. If married to a U.S. citizen (USC) the residency requirement is only three years, but there are several conditions to the three-year rule (e.g. parties must have been married for at least three years, no legal separation etc.).

d. be of good moral character.

e. have resided in the state or USCIS district where the application is filed for at least three months.

f. be physically present in the U.S. for at least one half of the five years (or one half of the three years, in a case where the spouse is a USC).

g. not be absent from the U.S. for a continuous period of more than one year during the period for which continuous residence is required. Absence of more than six months but less than one year establishes the presumption of not satisfying the continuity of residence requirement, which can be potentially rebutted. If one has broken continuity of residence, s/he may reapply for U.S. citizenship four years and one day following the date of his/her return to the U.S. to resume residency. The spouse of a USC needs two years and one day.

h. have a knowledge of English and ability to answer basic questions on U.S. history and government.

There are separate provisions for members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Question 2. I applied for U.S. citizenship several months ago. How long does it usually take to receive the fingerprint appointment notice?

Citizenship processing times vary widely depending upon location. Delays in the issuance of fingerprint appointment notices are not uncommon. It is generally a good idea, however, to check the status of the case by calling the National Customer Service Center toll-free number (800.375.5283) or by scheduling an Infopass appointment to visit your local immigration office.

Question 3. I have been a U.S. citizen for the past ten years. My wife is a lawful permanent resident. When can she apply for U.S. citizenship?

One may apply for U.S. citizenship after holding lawful permanent resident status for three years, if s/he is currently married to and living with a U.S. citizen; and has been married to and living with that same U.S. citizen for the past three years; and that spouse has been a U.S. citizen for the past three years. Most lawful permanent residents are required to hold permanent resident status for five years in order to file for U.S. citizenship, but the three-year rule benefits spouses of U.S. citizens.

Question 4. I am a green card holder and have applied for citizenship (N-400). I am moving soon. How do I notify USCIS of the new address?

Address changes for individuals with pending naturalization applications are made through the National Customer Service Center toll-free number (800.375.5283). It is also necessary to file Form AR-11. One can file Form AR-11 online at and also update the address on a pending application online as well.

Question 5. My husband and I plan to return to our home country when we finish our university degree programs. If our U.S.-born child lives abroad until adulthood, will he still hold U.S. citizenship?

The child is born as a U.S. citizen and remains a U.S. citizen even if s/he obtains a foreign passport. If the foreign government also considers him or her to be a citizen of that country, then it is necessary for her/him to choose nationality upon reaching the age of 18. When that U.S. citizen child turns 21, s/he will be eligible to apply for the parents’ green cards. Only an affirmative act, such as renouncing the U.S. citizenship, would cause the child’s status as a U.S. citizen to end. Such an affirmative act of renouncement would be if s/he, upon becoming an adult, went to the U.S. Embassy and declared a desire to relinquish U.S. citizenship.

Question 6. I am a lawful permanent resident and am waiting for my U.S. citizenship interview. When can I apply for U.S. citizenship for my child (a lawful permanent resident)?

It appears that your minor child may automatically become a U.S. citizen when you are sworn in as a U.S. citizen. A minor, lawful permanent resident child, who resides with his/her parent/s, becomes a U.S. citizen upon the naturalization of one parent. In order for a person to apply for U.S. citizenship in his/her own right, based on holding permanent resident status for 5 years, s/he has to be at least 18 years old.

In order to know what options are available to you and to obtain specific advice based upon the facts of your case, you should consult an experienced, knowledgeable immigration attorney.

Question 7. If I have served in the U.S. Military, can this help in my application for U.S. citizenship?

If a lawful permanent resident has been honorably serving, or has honorably served, in the U.S. military for at least one year, s/he may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. Also, if one has fought for the U.S. during a period of active hostilities, s/he may be able to file for U.S. citizenship directly, without ever having been a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. It is advisable to discuss these matters with an immigration attorney, if you believe that you fall into one of these categories and could be eligible for expedited citizenship processing.

Question 8. If a U.S. citizen applies to become a citizen of another country, must s/he relinquish U.S. citizenship? If not, what are the conditions? What about dual citizenship?

If one becomes a citizen of another country, then the U.S. may consider that person to no longer be a U.S. citizen. Incidentally, the same is not necessarily true the other way around. If a citizen of another country becomes a U.S. citizen, the individual’s home country may still consider her/him to be a citizen, depending upon the laws of that country.

There are situations in which the U.S. may recognize dual citizenship. For example, a person may have acquired U.S. citizenship through a parent and still be a citizen of another country. Instances of dual citizenship generally pertain to citizenship-by-birth; not when the U.S. citizen naturalizes in another country.

Question 9. My wife and I would like to live overseas for a few years. She will be a naturalized citizen. What are the restrictions for naturalized citizens living abroad?

Under current law, there is no restriction on where a U.S. citizen may live. Living in another country is not a ground for loss of U.S. citizenship.

Question 10. I am planning to file for U.S. citizenship. I would like to change my name legally. Can I do that in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen or do I need to file separately?

This can be done in the process of filing for U.S. citizenship. The application form specifically asks whether one wishes to change her/his name.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.