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LAW Home > Legal Topics > Immigration > Citizenship and Naturalization

You May Be Eligible To Become a Naturalized Citizen of the United States


There are some important reasons for applying for naturalization if you are eligible to do so:

As a U.S. citizen:

  • You may not be deported from the United States, except in very limited circumstances where your naturalization may be revoked.
  • You will have the right to vote in state and federal elections.
  • You will be eligible for a broader range of public benefits, if needed.

The following are the basic requirements you must meet in order to apply for naturalization:

  • Age
    You must be at least 18 years old.
  • Residency
    You must be a lawful/legal permanent resident (LPR) and
    • Have continuously resided in the U.S. as an LPR for five years and have been physically present in the U.S. for 30 months; or
    • If married to a U.S. citizen, have continuously resided in the U.S. as an LPR for three years and have been physically present in the U.S. for 18 months.
      (See below for possible problems.)
  • Good Moral Character
    You must be a person of good moral character.
    (See below for possible problems.)
  • English Language and History
    You must
    • Read, write, and speak words in ordinary use in the English language, with some exceptions;
    • Show knowledge and understanding of basic U.S. history and the way the U.S. government works, with some exceptions.
  • Oath of Allegiance
    You must be willing to swear allegiance to the United States of America, including supporting the Constitution and obeying the laws of the U.S.

Note! Pay particular attention to the residency and good moral character requirements:


If you have lived outside of the U.S. continuously for an extended period of time—more than six months—during your residency as an LPR, you may have a problem. If you lived outside of the U.S. for more than one year, you may run the risk of your residency being revoked based on a finding that you have abandoned your residency.

Good Moral Character

There are some situations that may trigger problems in meeting this requirement. Most common are issues such as arrests or criminal convictions, but also conduct such as failure or refusal to support dependents and giving false testimony.

Note: Certain criminal convictions will permanently prevent you from naturalizing, and some will trigger deportation proceedings. If you have ever been arrested for any reason, it is important that you do not apply for naturalization before consulting an immigration lawyer.

This article provides you with basic information on naturalization. You can find a complete guide, the necessary forms, and detailed information on the USCIS Office of Citizenship website.

If you have any questions and need more information, please contact the Immigration Representation Project at Legal Services of New Jersey at (732) 572-9100.