Chapter 1 - Purpose and Background
In general, a naturalization applicant must demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage. An applicant must also demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history and principles and form of government of the United States (civics). These are the English and civics requirements for naturalization. 
Prior to 1906, an applicant was not required to know English, history, civics, or understand the principles of the constitution to naturalize. If the court determined the applicant was a “thoroughly law-abiding and industrious man, of good moral character,” the applicant became a U.S. citizen.  As far back as 1908, the former Immigration Service and the Courts determined that a person could not establish the naturalization requirement of showing an attachment to the Constitution unless he or she had some understanding of its provisions. 
In 1940, Congress made amendments to include an English language requirement and certain exemptions based on age and residence, as well as a provision for questioning applicants on their understanding of the principles of the Constitution.  In 1994, Congress enacted legislation providing an exception to the naturalization educational requirements for applicants who cannot meet the requirements because of a medical disability. Congress also amended the exceptions to the English requirement based on age and residence that are current today. 
On October 1, 2008, USCIS implemented a redesigned English and civics test. With this redesigned test, USCIS ensures that all applicants have the same testing experience and have an equal opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of English and civics.
[^ 2] See In re Rodriguez, 81 F. 337 (W.D. Tex. 1897).
[^ 3] See In re Meakins, 164 F. 334 (E.D. Wash. 1908). See In re Vasicek, 271 F. 326 (E.D. Mo. 1921).
[^ 4] See the Nationality Act of 1940, Pub. L. 76-853, 54 Stat. 1137 (October 14, 1940).
Before October 29, 2019, USCIS considered children of members of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employees, who were stationed outside of the United States, to meet the requirement of “is residing in” the United States for the purpose of acquiring citizenship under INA 320. This interpretation was consistent with the definition of “residence” for purposes of naturalization under INA 316. Based on this treatment of U.S. government employees and their children in the context of naturalization under INA 316, USCIS determined that “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquisition of citizenship under INA 320 should likewise be interpreted to include children of U.S. military and government employees stationed outside of the United States who were residing with their parents.
This interpretation, however, was inconsistent with other provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), including the definition of “residence” at INA 101(a)(33) and language in INA 322(a) and INA 322(d), which suggested that the citizenship of military children residing outside of the United States should be considered under that provision rather than under INA 320. Effective October 29, 2019, USCIS amended its policy guidance to address these concerns, and determined that children of members of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employees stationed outside of the United States would not be eligible for citizenship acquisition under INA 320.
On March 26, 2020, the Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act was enacted, amending INA 320, so that a child residing with his or her U.S. citizen parent, who is stationed outside of the United States as a member of the U.S. armed forces or a U.S. government employee, or is residing in marital union with a member of the U.S. armed forces or a U.S. government employee who is stationed outside of the United States, acquires citizenship under INA 320 if all requirements of INA 320(c) and INA 320(a)(1)-(2) are met. In line with the statute, USCIS rescinds its previous guidance, clarifying that these children are eligible to acquire citizenship under INA 320 if all other requirements under INA 320 are met.
The amendment to INA 320 applies to children who were under the age of 18 on March 26, 2020.
[^ 1] Even though the child of a member of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employee stationed outside of the United States may be eligible to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship under INA 322 since he or she resides outside of the United States, USCIS interpreted the child to meet residency requirements under INA 320 as well, which formerly required the child to be residing in the United States with his or her parent to acquire citizenship.
[^ 2] For example, U.S. government employees, including members of the U.S. armed forces, are eligible to apply for an exception to the continuous residence requirement for naturalization under INA 316 as long as their residency outside of the United States was on behalf of the U.S. government. See INA 316(b). See INA 316(a). See Part D, General Naturalization Requirements, Chapter 3, Continuous Residence [12 USCIS-PM D.3].
[^ 3] See Policy Manual Technical Update, Child Citizenship Act and Children of U.S. Government Employees Residing Abroad (July 20, 2015); and Acquisition of Citizenship by Children of U.S. Military and Government Employees Stationed Abroad under Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), No. 103, issued May 6, 2004.
[^ 4] See USCIS Policy Alert, Defining “Residence” in Statutory Provisions Related to Citizenship [PA-2019-05] (PDF, 308.45 KB). This Policy Alert has been superseded by Policy Manual updates to reflect changes made under Pub. L. 116-133 (PDF).
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating and incorporating relevant Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) content into the USCIS Policy Manual. As that process is ongoing, USCIS has moved any remaining AFM content to its corresponding USCIS Policy Manual Part, in PDF format, until relevant AFM content has been properly incorporated into the USCIS Policy Manual. To the extent that a provision in the USCIS Policy Manual conflicts with remaining AFM content or Policy Memoranda, the updated information in the USCIS Policy Manual prevails. To find remaining AFM content, see the crosswalk (PDF) between the AFM and the Policy Manual.
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”].
USCIS is issuing updated and comprehensive citizenship and naturalization policy guidance in the new USCIS Policy Manual.