U.S. citizenship has many benefits. U.S. citizens have the right to vote, the right to hold public office, and eligibility for certain jobs (for example, with the federal government). Additionally, U.S. citizens may not be deported for crimes, as are permanent residents. The United States allows dual citizenship, so you may be able to retain the citizenship of your home country, as long as your home country allows dual citizenship also.

You must be a lawful permanent resident for five years in order to apply for citizenship. In the case of spouses of U.S. citizens, you must have been a permanent resident for three years to apply for citizenship. In order to qualify for U.S. citizenship, you must show that you have five years of continuous residence in the U.S. (in the case of U.S. citizen spouses, it is three years) as well as good moral character. Certain criminal convictions may bar one from establishing good moral character. People with criminal convictions who apply for naturalization may even be placed in removal (deportation) proceedings. Additionally, those who have failed to file U.S. federal income tax returns or have failed to register for the Selective Service may be denied naturalization. If you have a criminal history, have failed to file income tax returns or failed to register for the Selective Service, you should consult an attorney before applying for citizenship.

Moreover, applicants for naturalization must pass an English literacy and U.S. history and government test. Three groups of people are exempt from the English language requirement: 1) those who are developmentally disabled or mentally impaired; 2) those who are over 50 years old and have been permanent residents for more than 20 years; and 3) those who are over 55 years old and have been permanent residents for more than 15 years. The INS may give an easier history and government test to applicants who are over 65 and have been permanent residents for more than 20 years.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) allows certain foreign-born children who are residing in the U.S. as permanent residents to acquire citizenship automatically, without applying to USCIS. A child born outside the U.S. of two alien parents will automatically acquire U.S. citizenship if he or she is living in the U.S. as a permanent resident and the parents become naturalized U.S. citizens before the child’s 18th birthday. This also applies to adopted children, as long as the child is in the custody of his or her adoptive parents pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence. Additionally, if the parents have been legally separated and the parent having legal custody of the child naturalizes, the child will automatically become a U.S. citizen. Such children can directly apply for a U.S. passport and do not need to apply to the USCIS for a Certificate of Citizenship, nor do they have to apply for naturalization.


Did you know that if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26, unless you are on a nonimmigrant visa, you are required to register with the Selective Service? Even illegal aliens are required to register with the Selective Service, as well as parolees, refugees and applicants for asylum. Of course, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are also required to register.

You can register on-line at the Selective Service web site, www.sss.gov. Although you are required to register, that does not necessarily mean you will be drafted. If there is a draft, men who reach age 20 during the year in which inductions occur would be the first group called. If more men are needed, the call would continue up to those who are 21, and so forth.

If you fail to register with the Selective Service, you may be denied naturalization to U.S. citizenship. Additionally, failing to register is a crime, punishable by a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment for up to five years or both.

While only men must register, both men and women can volunteer to serve in the U.S armed forces. About 37,000 immigrants currently are serving in the U.S. military. Another 13,000 immigrants are part of the military reserves, many of whom have been called up for active duty.

If you serve honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least three years, you may be eligible for naturalization to U.S. citizenship. The U.S. armed forces include the army, navy, marines, air force, and coast guard. You will not be required to meet the physical presence and continuous residence requirements of naturalization.

The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2004 contains a provision to speed the naturalization process for permanent residents serving in the military. The Act allows permanent residents to naturalize after serving one year in the military during peacetime, authorizes naturalization interviews and oath ceremonies to be performed abroad, waives naturalization fees for those in the military, enables permanent residents who are members of the Selected Reserves or the Ready Reserves to speed up their naturalization in times of war or hostile military operations, allows spouses, unmarried children and parents of those killed in military service to file or preserve already filed applications for permanent residence, and speeds up the process for granting posthumous citizenship to those killed in battle.