Naturalization is the process by which a person becomes a United States citizen. It is usually a long journey that begins with first obtaining a green card. After obtaining a green card, a person must wait for five years and maintain continuous residence in the U.S. However, a person who received their green card through a U.S. citizen spouse need wait only three years instead of five. In addition, a foreign national who serves in the military may also naturalize without need for any sponsor.
Individuals must be physically present in the U.S. for at least half the time and have good moral character before they can be eligible to apply for citizenship.
When applying to naturalize, an applicant must take the citizenship exam at the interview, pass the test within two tries, and take the oath of citizenship.
Once a person obtains U.S. citizenship, they gain the right to vote and hold public office, the ability to live outside the U.S. for extended periods of time without losing permanent resident rights, the ability to work in some government jobs that are available only to U.S. citizens, and certain tax benefits which apply to U.S. citizens and not to permanent residents. Additionally, U.S. citizens cannot be deported.