Naturalization is the process in which a person not born in the United States becomes a U.S. citizen.
For more than 200 years, the United States has remained strong because of its citizens and the common civic values they share. When a person is naturalized, they agree to accept all of the responsibilities of being a citizen. They agree to support the United States, its Constitution, and its laws. In return, they are rewarded with all the rights that are part of citizenship.
Rights of Citizenship. The Constitution and laws of the United States gives many rights to both citizens and non-citizens living in the United States. However, some rights are only for citizens, such as:
- Voting. Only U.S. citizens can vote in Federal elections. Most States also restrict the right to vote, in most elections, to U.S. citizens.
- Bringing family members to the United States. Citizens generally get priority when petitioning to bring family members permanently to this country.
- Obtaining citizenship for children born abroad. In most cases, a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen is automatically a U.S. citizen.
- Traveling with a U.S. passport. A U.S. passport allows you to get assistance from the U.S. government when overseas.
- Becoming eligible for Federal jobs. Most jobs with government agencies require U.S. citizenship.
- Becoming an elected official. Many elected offices in this country require U.S. citizenship.
The above list does not include all the benefits of citizenship, only some of the more important ones.
Responsibilities of Citizenship. To become a U.S. citizen you must take the Oath of Allegiance. The Oath includes several promises you make when you become a U.S. citizen, including promises to:
- Give up all prior allegiance to any other nation or sovereignty;
- Swear allegiance to the United States;
- Support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States; and
- Serve the country when required.
U.S. citizens have other responsibilities such as participating in the political process by voting in elections and serving on juries when called upon.
Generally, to be eligible for naturalization you must: be age 18 or older; be a permanent resident for a certain amount of time (usually 5 years but less for some individuals); be a person of good moral character; have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government; have a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States; and be able to read, write, and speak basic English.