General Naturalization Provisions are the most basic requirements that any immigrant must meet in order to qualify for naturalization in the United States. The general naturalization provisions are set and monitored by the U.S. Center for Immigration Services (USCIS).
The USCIS defines naturalization as the process of conferring U.S. citizenship to an individual. A person can be naturalized by any means other than birthright citizenship. The general naturalization provisions are the foundation upon which the rest of the citizenship processes build upon. The USCIS notes that an applicant for naturalization has the burden of proof for proving “by a preponderance of the evidence” that they have met the requirements for naturalization.
The general naturalization provisions span a number of categories including the age, education, conduct, and residential history of an individual. Some are very basic, such as requiring that all applicants must be at least 18 years old before they can apply for naturalization, while others are more long-term goals such as residing in the country for at least five years.
The general naturalization provisions are non-exhaustive, but these basic provisions form the basis of eligibility for most naturalization pathways. Depending on the circumstances of an individual, there may be legal exceptions to some of these provisions but for most people those options will not be applicable.
The first requirement for naturalization is that the applicant must be at least 18 years old in order to file. This means that the applicant must already be 18 when they file for naturalization. A 17 year old who turns 18 during the naturalization process will be considered invalid.
The second requirement is that the applicant must have been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years in order to be eligible for naturalization. A lawful permanent resident is any person who has a valid green card. The time in which the applicant was applying to qualify for a green card is not included in the five year time frame required to apply for naturalization.
Next, the applicant must demonstrate that they have been a continuous resident of the United States for at least five years. This is counted in two ways. First, the applicant must maintain a physical address in the United States continuously for at least five years. Second, they cannot leave the United States for longer than 180 days at one time. This also goes towards the requirement that the applicant must be physically present in the United States for 30 of the 60 months preceding their application. Multiple small absences for less than six months can jeopardize the applicant’s chances of naturalization while any absence of six months or more at once risks disqualifying them outright.
Another thing that breaks continuous residence requirements is any legal removal from the country. If an applicant is deported their legal permanent resident status and continuous resident record are both broken. In addition to continuous residence and presence requirements, the applicant must also have lived in the state they are applying in for at least three months.
The final category of general naturalization provisions regards education and character. In regard to educational qualifications, an applicant for naturalization needs to be able to read, write, speak, and understand English and also needs to have “knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government.” Character provisions include being “of good moral character” for at least five years before filing for naturalization as well as during the period of time leading up to the completion of the Oath of Allegiance.
USCIS describes good moral character as going hand in hand with having an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and being inclined to behaving in service of the good order and happiness of the United States under the law.
If you are an immigrant and are looking to take advantage of paths to citizenship and satisfy your general naturalization provisions, you will need the help of an experienced Immigration Law attorney. An Immigration Law attorney will be able to advise you and advocate on your behalf in order to get you the best possible outcome for your case.
Using their legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses, your Immigration Law attorney can explore your alternative options to deportation as well as present your case in the most compelling light possible and deftly navigate the complex processes of immigration bureaucracy as well as the obscure functions of immigration court.