As someone who was born outside of the United States, you may have cause to pursue U.S. citizenship through naturalization. Once you become an official U.S. citizen, you gain access to the same rights and protections as natural-born citizens and are free to live your life permanently in the U.S. state of your choice.

Before you are able to pursue U.S. citizenship through naturalization, USA.gov reports, you must meet certain eligibility requirements.

Determining eligibility for citizenship through naturalization

To potentially achieve U.S. citizenship through naturalization, you must be at least 18 years of age. You also have to be a person of good moral character, and you also need to possess the ability to read, write and speak basic English.

Furthermore, you need to have held a Permanent Resident Card, or a “green card,” for at least five years. However, there is an important exception. Spouses who are married to existing U.S. citizens only have to hold their green cards for three years before pursuing citizenship through naturalization.

Moving forward with the 10-step naturalization process

Assessing your eligibility for citizenship is just one step in the 10-step naturalization process. Other steps include completing and submitting an application for naturalization, attending a biometrics appointment, if necessary, and undergoing an interview with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, among others.

U.S. citizenship offers many benefits. It gives you certain freedoms you lacked beforehand, such as the right to vote, travel freely or hold a government job. It also gives you a defense against deportation and a potential opportunity to establish citizenship for your children, if applicable.