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by Gregory Siskind

The ultimate goal of many immigrants to the US is citizenship through naturalization, which is the acquisition of citizenship after birth. 

What is the age requirement for naturalization? 

The most basic requirement for naturalization is that the applicant must be at least 18 years old. Children younger than 18 whose parents are naturalized automatically obtain US citizenship as long as the children have also met the requisite residency requirements.   

Do I have to live in the United States before I am naturalized? 

There are a number of requirements related to residency in the US that must be satisfied for naturalization. In most cases, the applicant must  

  • have continuously resided in the US for five years after becoming a permanent resident (three years if married to a US citizen);
  • at least half of the permanent residency time must have been spent physically in the US;
  • the applicant must have lived for at least three months in the jurisdiction where the application will be filed.

What additional requirements must be met to naturalize? 

The applicant must demonstrate good moral character and an attachment to the principles embodied in the US Constitution. Finally, they must possess basic English skills and knowledge of the history and government of the US. 

Are there any exceptions to the requirements? 

There are some groups of people who, even if they could demonstrate these requirements, are still not eligible to become citizens. These include people who have held certain ideological beliefs and people who have deserted the US military. While criminal offenses do not of themselves preclude a person from being naturalized, after 1996 people convicted of aggravated felonies are unable to show good moral character. US law no longer contains provisions that prevent a person from naturalizing because of their ethnicity. 

About The Author

Gregory Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.