Chapter 1 - Purpose and Background
The United States has a long history of welcoming immigrants from all parts of the world. The United States values the contributions of immigrants who continue to enrich this country and preserve its legacy as a land of freedom and opportunity. USCIS is proud of its role in maintaining our country’s tradition as a nation of immigrants and will administer immigration and naturalization benefits with integrity.
U.S. citizenship is a unique bond that unites people around civic ideals and a belief in the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The promise of citizenship is grounded in the fundamental value that all persons are created equal and serves as a unifying identity to allow persons of all backgrounds, whether native or foreign-born, to have an equal stake in the future of the United States.
This volume of the USCIS Policy Manual explains the laws and policies that govern U.S. citizenship and naturalization.
USCIS administers citizenship and naturalization law and policy by:
Providing accurate and useful information to citizenship and naturalization applicants;
Promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship; and
Adjudicating citizenship and naturalization applications in a consistent and accurate manner.
Accordingly, USCIS reviews benefit request for citizenship and naturalization to determine whether:
Foreign-born children of U.S. citizens by birth or naturalization meet the eligibility requirements before recognizing their acquisition or derivation of U.S. citizenship.
Persons applying for naturalization based on their time as lawful permanent residents meet the eligibility requirements to become U.S. citizens.
Persons applying for naturalization based on their marriage to a U.S. citizen meet the eligibility requirements for naturalization through the provisions for spouses of U.S. citizens.
Members of the U.S. armed forces and their families are eligible for naturalization and ensure that qualified applicants are naturalized expeditiously through the military provisions.
Persons working abroad for certain entities, to include the U.S. Government, meet the eligibility requirements for certain exceptions to the general naturalization requirements.
Volume 12, Citizenship and Naturalization, contains detailed guidance on the requirements for citizenship and naturalization.
Volume 12 Parts
Citizenship and Naturalization Policies and Procedures
General policies and procedures relating to citizenship and naturalization
Naturalization examination, to include security checks, interview and eligibility review
Accommodations and modifications that USCIS may provide in the naturalization process
General Naturalization Requirements
General naturalization requirements that apply to most lawful permanent residents
English and Civics Testing and Exceptions
Testing for educational requirements for naturalization
Good Moral Character
Good moral character for naturalization and the related permanent and conditional bars
Spouses of U.S. Citizens
Spouses of U.S. citizens who reside in the United States or abroad
Children of U.S. Citizens
Children of U.S. citizens who may have acquired or derived citizenship stateside or abroad
Military Members and their Families
Provisions based on military service for members of the military and their families
Oath of Allegiance
Oath of Allegiance for naturalization, to include modifications and waivers
Certificates of Citizenship and Naturalization
Issuance and replacement of Certificates of Citizenship and Certificates of Naturalization
Revocation of Naturalization
General procedures for revocation of naturalization (denaturalization)
Upon the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, the first U.S. citizens were granted citizenship status retroactively as of 1776. Neither an application for citizenship, nor the taking of an Oath of Allegiance was required at that time.  Persons only needed to remain in the United States at the close of the war and the time of independence to show that they owed their allegiance to the new Government and accepted its protection.
The following key legislative acts provide a basic historical background for the evolution of the general eligibility requirements for naturalization as set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Naturalization Act of 1790
Naturalization Act of 1798
Naturalization Act of 1802
Naturalization Act of 1891
Naturalization Act of 1906
The Alien Registration Act of 1940
C. Legal Authorities
8 CFR 2 – Authority of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
1. [^] See Frank G. Franklin, The Legislative History of Naturalization in the United States; From the Revolutionary War to 1861 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1906).
INA 318 - Prerequisite to naturalization, burden of proof
No appendices available at this time.
Technical Update - Replacing the Term “Foreign National”October 08, 2019
This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].
POLICY ALERT - Comprehensive Citizenship and Naturalization Policy GuidanceJanuary 07, 2013
USCIS is issuing updated and comprehensive citizenship and naturalization policy guidance in the new USCIS Policy Manual.