How do I Become a US Citizen?
For most clients, naturalization is the next step following obtaining a green card that allows them to live and work in the U.S. Naturalization is the complex process by which a foreign national can become a U.S. citizen. Below are the requirements to apply for US Citizenship:
Permanent ResidenceA green card, or permanent residence, allows an immigrant to live and work in the United States for the rest of his or her life. For many people, obtaining a green card is the first step in the road to U.S. citizenship.
Time as a Permanent ResidentThe applicant must be present in the U.S. as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) or on Military Duty.
Continuous ResidenceFive years of continuous residency in the United States subsequent to LPR status and three months in the State where the citizenship application is filed.
Physical Presence in the USMust be physically present in the United States for at least one-half of the 5 years residing in the U.S.
Time as a Resident in a USCIS District or StateMost people must live in the USCIS district or State in which they are applying for at least 3 months before applying.
Good Moral CharacterMust be a person of good moral character for 5 years prior to the filing of the citizenship application up to the time of admission.
- Criminal Record - Committing certain crimes may cause you to be ineligible for naturalization. You cannot establish that you are a person of good moral character if you have been convicted of murder, at any time, or of any aggravated felony, if you were convicted on or after November 29, 1990.
- Lying - If you do not tell the truth during your interview, USCIS will deny your application for lacking good moral character. If USCIS grants your naturalization and you are later found to have lied during your interview, your citizenship may be taken away.
English and CivicsAccording to the law, applicants must demonstrate:
- "An understanding of the English language, including the ability to read, write, and speak...simple words and phrases...in ordinary usage in the English language...."
- "A knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and of the principles and form of government, of the United States...."
Attachment to the ConstitutionThis includes:
- Renouncing Foreign Allegiances
- Taking an Oath of Allegiance to the United States
- Bearing arms on the behalf of the U.S. when required by law.
- Must not otherwise be barred as a subversive, a communist, a deserter, or in removal proceedings.
Minimum Residency RequirementsTo maintain one's green card status one must intend to reside in the U.S. and be physically present in the U.S.
While absences from the U.S. are permitted, those considering long absences from the U.S. of more than 5 months should consider obtaining a re-entry permit to preserve their residence. A re-entry permit must be obtained for absences of more than a year. Those taking absences of five months or more should also consider carrying evidence of maintaining a U.S. residence; even with a re-entry permit.
You should be aware that:
- An absence of one year or more disrupts the continuity of residence.
- An absence of 6 months to one year raises a presumption that the continuity of residence has been interrupted.
USCIS will also review applications where there are multiple absences of less than six months.
- A person whose continuous period of residency has been broken will need to reapply four years and one day following the date of their return to the U.S. to reestablish residency.