AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 14111841. (Posted 11/18/14)
The United States has a long history of welcoming immigrants from all parts of the world. During the last decade, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) welcomed more than 6.6 million naturalized citizens into the fabric of our nation. In fiscal year 2013, 777,416 individuals were naturalized, and in fiscal year 2014, 654,949 people were naturalized.
Deciding to become a U.S. citizen can be a very important milestone in an immigrant’s life. Individuals must demonstrate a commitment to the unifying principles that bind us as Americans and, in return, will enjoy many of the rights and privileges that are fundamental to U.S. citizenship.
About the Naturalization Process
In general, an individual age 18 or older seeking to become a citizen of the United States must apply for naturalization by filing an Application for Naturalization, Form N-400. To be eligible for naturalization, an applicant must fulfill certain eligibility requirements set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
These general eligibility requirements specify that the applicant must:
• Be at least 18 years of age;
• Be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder);
• Have resided in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years;
• Have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months;
• Be a person of good moral character;
• Be able to speak, read, write and understand the English language;
• Have knowledge of U.S. government and history; and
• Be willing and able to take the Oath of Allegiance.
Special naturalization provisions exempt certain applicants from one or more of the general requirements for naturalization. Spouses of U.S. citizens and members of the military constitute the main categories of individuals who are exempt from some of the general requirements for naturalization.
• The majority of individuals naturalizing as spouses of U.S. citizens may do so three years after being admitted as lawful permanent residents, rather than the five years prescribed under the general provisions.
• Spouses of U.S. citizens stationed abroad may not be required to meet any particular residence or physical presence requirement.
• Members of the military who served honorably during certain periods of conflict may be eligible for naturalization even though they have not been admitted as lawful permanent residents and even if they are under the age of 18.
• Members of the military who served honorably for at least one year, at any time, and apply for naturalization within a certain time after their military service, are also exempt from the general residence and physical presence requirements.
In addition to these naturalization provisions, the INA also provides for the naturalization of children who are under the age of 18.
• A child under the age of 18, who is a lawful permanent resident residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of a U.S. citizen parent, may automatically acquire U.S. citizenship. To obtain evidence of U.S. citizenship, an Application for Certificate of Citizenship, Form N-600, must be filed on behalf of the child.
• A child who is residing abroad, who is temporarily present in the U.S. based on any lawful admission, may be eligible to apply for naturalization while under the age of 18 if he or she has at least one parent who is a citizen of the United States, and the parent (or qualifying grandparent) meets certain physical presence requirements in the United States.
• There are exemptions benefiting children of active-duty members of the military stationed abroad.
All persons filing an Application for Naturalization who have submitted a complete application along with all required documents will be scheduled for an interview with a USCIS officer. Those applicants found qualified are scheduled for an oath ceremony before a judge or an officer delegated the authority by the Director of USCIS to administer the Oath of Allegiance. Applicants do not become U.S. citizens until they have taken the Oath.
• Each year, USCIS welcomes approximately 680,000 citizens during naturalization ceremonies across the United States and around the world.
• In FY 2013, 75 percent of all persons naturalizing resided in 10 states (in descending order): California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
• In FY 2013, the leading metropolitan areas of residence were New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA (17.5 percent); Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA (9 percent); and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL (8.6 percent).
• In FY 2013, the top countries of origin for naturalization were in the following order: Mexico, India, the Philippines, Dominican Republic and China.
• Since Oct. 1, 2002, USCIS has naturalized 102,266 members of the military, with 11,548 of those service members becoming citizens during USCIS naturalization ceremonies in 34 foreign countries: Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Bahrain, China (Hong Kong), Cuba (Guantanamo), Djibouti, El Salvador, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Iraq, Italy, Jamaica,
Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Mexico, the Philippines, Qatar, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
• Since the beginning of fiscal year 2008, USCIS has naturalized 2,318 military spouses during ceremonies in the following 30 countries: Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Chile, Cuba, China (Hong Kong), El Salvador, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, Norway, Oman, Panama, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
Total Naturalized Citizens: Fiscal Years 2001-2014