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The ultimate goal of many immigrants to the US is citizenship through naturalization, which is the acquisition of citizenship after birth.
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.
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 in a marital relationship with U.S. Citizen); at least one-half of this time must be spent physically in the US. The applicant must have lived for at least three months in the jurisdiction where the application will be filed.
The naturalization 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 a knowledge of the history and government of the US.
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.