Naturalization Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Naturalization, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Naturalization?

Process which a foreign citizen legally becomes a U.S. citizen. Refer to the definitions for permanent resident and green card.

History and Meaning of Naturalization

Naturalization is the legal process by which a foreign national is granted citizenship of a country. In the United States, the naturalization process involves several steps, including fulfilling residency and language requirements, passing a test on U.S. history and government, and taking an oath of allegiance to the United States. The requirements and procedures for naturalization have evolved over time, reflecting changing attitudes towards immigration and citizenship.

The first naturalization law in the United States was enacted in 1790, allowing any "free white person" of "good moral character" to become a citizen after living in the country for two years. Over the years, Congress expanded eligibility to include African Americans, Native Americans, women, and other groups. Today, naturalization is available to most permanent residents who meet certain requirements, such as holding a green card for at least five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen) and demonstrating an ability to read, write, and speak English.

Examples of Naturalization

  1. Maria moved to the United States from Mexico and obtained a green card through her employer. After living in the U.S. for five years and meeting other requirements, she applied for naturalization and became a U.S. citizen.

  2. Andy was born in Germany to U.S. parents and raised overseas. He decided to move to the United States as an adult and went through the naturalization process to obtain U.S. citizenship.

  3. After fleeing persecution in his home country, Juan arrived in the United States as a refugee and was eventually granted asylum. Several years later, he applied for naturalization and became a U.S. citizen.

Legal Terms Similar to Naturalization

  1. Citizenship - The status of being a member of a particular country and having the rights and privileges that come with that status.

  2. Immigration - The act of moving to a foreign country with the intention of living there permanently or for an extended period.

  3. Permanent residency - A status granted to foreign nationals who are authorized to live and work in the United States permanently, but who are not U.S. citizens.

  4. Oath of allegiance - A formal declaration of loyalty to a particular country or government, often required as part of the naturalization process.