Introduction to Naturalization

Naturalization, process by which a state confers its citizenship or nationality on a foreigner. The U.S. confers all the privileges of citizenship, except eligibility to the presidency and vice-presidency. The federal government has exclusive right to grant naturalization to aliens, through federal or state courts. Under the law (effective December 24, 1952), applicants for U.S. citizenship must generally file a petition for naturalization in a naturalization court in the district where they are residents. Petitioners must be at least 18 years of age and of good moral character. They must have been lawful residents of the U.S. for at least five years immediately preceding the date of filing their petition for naturalization and residents of the state in which they filed their petition for the preceding six months. They must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least two and one-half years of this 5-year period. The residence requirement for spouses of U.S. citizens is three years. Special regulations also govern the naturalization of spouses of U.S. citizens who are employed abroad and alien veterans of the U.S. armed services. Petitioners are required to read, write, and speak English, unless prevented by physical disability or unless they were, on December 24, 1952, over 50 years of age and residents of the U.S. for 20 years. They must also be “attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States” and have a knowledge of U.S. history and government. Petitions for naturalization must be signed by the applicants and must be attested by two credible witnesses, citizens of the U.S., who are personally acquainted with them. Generally a period of 30 days from the date of filing must elapse before a final hearing on petitions is held. When petitions for naturalization are granted by the court, the applicants swear allegiance to the U.S. and renounce allegiance to the foreign countries of which they were formerly citizens.

With certain exceptions, persons who within ten years of the time of the filing of their petitions for naturalization have been supporters of a totalitarian form of government, or who do not believe in organized government, are denied naturalization on the grounds of subversion. All racial barriers to naturalization were legally abolished in 1952. Women and men have equal rights to naturalization.” (1)

Naturalization and Citizenship in U.S. Constitutional Law

A list of entries related to Naturalization and Citizenship may be found, under the Naturalization and Citizenship subject group, in the United States constitutional law platform of the American legal encyclopedia.


Embracing mainstream international law, this section on naturalization explores the context, history and effect of the area of the law covered here.


See Also

  • Civil Liberty
  • Civil Right
  • Legal Right
  • Citizen Freedom
  • Political Liberty
  • Constitutional Right
  • Political Right
  • Freedom of Speech


Further Reading

  • The entry “naturalization” in the Parry and Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law (currently, the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law, 2009), Oxford University Press


Notes and References

Guide to Naturalization






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