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Naturalization And Citizenship

Resident aliens become citizens through naturalization. To apply for naturalization, most aliens must meet several requirements. They must (1) reside continuously in the United States for five years as lawfully admitted permanent residents; (2) be physically present in the United States for at least half of the time before filing the petition for naturalization; and (3) reside for at least three months within the district in which the petition is filed. Aliens must generally be at least 18 years of age, although parents who are citizens can file on behalf of younger children. Literacy and educational standards must be met: unless physically unable to do so, aliens must be able to speak, understand, read, and write simple English. They have to show "good moral character"—an ambiguous term that includes not being a drunkard, gambler, or convict jailed for 180 days or more. They must exhibit an attachment to constitutional principles, essentially proved through a belief in representative democracy, the Bill of Rights, and political processes.

To ascertain an applicant's fitness for naturalization, a naturalization examiner conducts an informal hearing. The examiner questions the applicant and witnesses who can testify on her or his behalf and then renders a decision. If denied, the applicant may reapply with LEGAL REPRESENTATION; in some cases, federal district courts may determine naturalization or remand the matter to the BCIS with instructions. Finally, if approved, the applicant is granted citizenship at a hearing in open court after taking an oath of allegiance to the United States.

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