General Eligibility Requirements for U.S. Naturalization
Filing your application with USCIS to become a naturalized U.S. citizen is a very exciting process with the end result of becoming a United States citizen. This article discusses the general requirements and process to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Have a U.S. citizen parent? Then you may already have U.S. citizenship and not know it! Read about derivative citizenship here.
If you are a green card holder of at least 5 years, you must meet the following requirements in order to apply for naturalization:
- Be 18 or older at the time of filing
- Be a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing
- Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
- Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
- Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
- Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
- Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
- Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law
- Pass a written English and U.S. Civics (History) test;
If you obtained your Green Card through marriage to a U.S. citizen and are still married to that spouse, you may qualify to apply for Naturalization after only 3 years. Contact our Immigration Lawyer now for a FREE consultation.
Residency Requirements for U.S. Naturalization
Permanent Residents are individuals who have lawful permanent resident status in the United States as provided for under U.S. immigration laws. Permanent Residents can apply for U.S. naturalization after 5 continuous years of residence in the U.S., under most circumstances.
In most cases, you must be a Permanent Resident for a certain number of years before you may apply for naturalization. It is not enough to be a Permanent Resident for the required number of years; you must also be in “continuous residence.” Read more about physical presence and residency requirements for U.S. citizenship.
What are the “Continuous Residence” and “Physical Presence” requirements for naturalization in the United States?
“Continuous residence” means that you have maintained residence within the United States for the required period of time shown above. Read our section on these requirements for Nationalization.
You are required to show that you have:
- Resided continuously in the U.S. for five years before applying,
- Resided continuously in the U.S. for three years in the case of qualified spouses of U.S. citizens
Extended absences outside of the U.S. may disrupt your proof of continuous residence.
- Absences of more than six months but less than one year may disrupt your continuous residence unless you can prove otherwise
- Absences in excess of one year, more may disrupt your continuous residence
“Physical presence” means that you have been present in the U.S.
You are required to show that they were:
- Physically present in the U.S. for thirty months within the five year period before applying
- Physically present in the U.S. for eighteen months within the three year period before applying in the case of qualified spouses of U.S. citizens
In addition, you are required to show that you have resided for at least three months immediately preceding the filing of paperwork in the USCIS district or state where you claim to have residency. Read our more in-depth section on these issues here.
Are there any exceptions to the residency requirements for U.S. naturalization?
The Immigration and Nationality Act allows for certain exceptions to the continuous residence requirement for those applicants working abroad for:
- The United States government, including the Military
- Contractors of the United States government
- A recognized American institution of research
- A public international organization
- An organization designated under the International Immunities Act
Good Moral Character
To be eligible for naturalization you must be a person of good moral character. USCIS will make a determination on your moral character based upon the laws Congress has passed.
An officer’s assessment of whether you meet the GMC requirement includes an officer’s review of:
- your record;
- Statements provided in the naturalization application; and
- Oral testimony provided during the interview.
Bars to Good Moral Character
Permanent bars to good moral character include convictions for murder, aggravated felonies, or for participating in persecution, genocide, torture, or severe violations of religious freedom. In addition to the permanent bars to good moral character, the Immigrations and Nationality Act and corresponding regulations include bars to good moral character that are not permanent in nature. USCIS refers to these bars as “conditional bars.” These bars are triggered by specific acts, offenses, activities, circumstances, or convictions within the statutory period for naturalization, including the period prior to filing and up to the time of the Oath of Allegiance. If you have any doubts as to if you would qualify for good moral character, please contact us at JCS Immigration and Visa. Our dedicated immigration attorneys will provide you with confidential, expert legal counsel. Call or email for your free initial consultation.
Does U.S. Immigration Law allow me to fast track my naturalization application process if I am married to a U.S. citizen?
You may qualify for naturalization under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) if you
- Have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years
- Have been living in marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse during such time
- Meet all other eligibility requirements under this section
In certain cases, spouses of U.S. citizens employed abroad may qualify for naturalization regardless of their time as permanent residents.
For help becoming a permanent resident or petitioning for family members, please feel free to contact JCS Immigration and Visa for an initial consultation.
USCIS General Eligibility Requirements for applying after marriage to a U.S. Citizen:
- Be 18 or older
- Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years immediately preceding your application for naturalization
- Have been living in marital union with the U.S. citizen spouse, who has been a U.S. citizen during that time and the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application and to the time that there is the examination for the naturalization.
- Have lived within the state, or USCIS district covering your place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
- Have continuous residence in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
- Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization until the time of naturalization
- Be physically present in the United States for at least 18 months out of the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
- Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (also known as civics)
- Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law
Naturalization is a common way to gain your U.S. citizenship, however, there are many requirements that must be met. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your naturalization application through marriage and need expert legal advice, call us to speak with our experienced Los Angeles immigration and naturalization attorneys.
U.S. Citizenship for Military Members under the Immigration and Nationality Act
How will my military service affect my eligibility for U.S. Citizenship?
Members and veterans of the U.S. armed forces, and their dependents may be eligible for citizenship under special provisions of law. There are various immigration laws currently in place to help you and your family members gain U.S. citizenship through naturalization. For more information on how your time in the military can affect your naturalization process, please contact JCS Immigration and Visa for a free initial consultation.
General Eligibility Requirements for U.S. Citizenship by Naturalization through One Year of Military Service during Peacetime
If you served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for one year at any time, you may be eligible to apply for naturalization, which is sometimes referred to as “peacetime naturalization.” While some of the general naturalization requirements apply to qualifying members or veterans of the U.S. armed forces seeking to naturalize based on one year of service, other requirements may not apply or are reduced.
To be eligible, you must establish that you:
- Are 18 years of age or older
- must have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least one year
- must be a lawful permanent resident (LPR) at the time of examination on the naturalization application.
- must meet certain residence and physical presence requirements.
- must demonstrate an ability to understand English including an ability to read, write, and speak English.
- must demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and government.
- must demonstrate good moral character for at least five years prior to filing the application until the time of his or her naturalization.
- must have an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law.
U.S. Immigration Laws Regarding Conditional Permanent Residence and Naturalization during Hostilities
If you are a conditional permanent resident and is eligible to naturalize on the basis of military service during hostilities without being a legal permanent resident, based on being in the United States during enlistment or induction, your application can be expedited. There are certain applications and petitions that are usually required from you that will be waived.
For questions about how you can get your Application for Naturalization approved faster due to your service in the military during hostilities, contact our immigration lawyers in Los Angeles.
U.S. Citizenship for Spouses and Children of Military Service Members
If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen member of the U.S. armed forces, and your spouse is or will be deployed, you may be eligible for expedited naturalization or for overseas processing. Certain spouses may be eligible for expedited naturalization in the United States and may not be required to establish any prior period of residence or specified period of physical presence within the United States, as generally required for naturalization. Children of U.S. citizen military members deployed abroad may be eligible for overseas processing.
If my spouse is a military service member and I am applying for naturalization, do I have to prove that my spouse is a U.S. citizen?
If you are the spouse of a service member who has been a legal permanent resident for five years and are applying for naturalization through the general provision, you do not need to establish that the service member spouse is a U.S. citizen. If you are no longer married to a service member at the time of filing, you may still meet the residence and physical presence requirements if the legal permanent resident was married to the service member and met all the conditions above during the period of time in question.
If you are the spouse of a service member who has been a legal permanent resident for three years and are applying on the basis of your marriage for three years, you must establish that the service member has been a U.S. citizen for the required period.
Have new immigration laws have affected naturalization requirements for continuous residence and physical presence for spouses of military service members residing abroad?
New legislation was enacted to permit a spouse or child to count any period of time that he or she was residing abroad with the service member as officially authorized residence and physical presence in the United States, under certain conditions. The law permits expedited naturalization in the United States for eligible spouses of U.S. citizen service members who are or will be stationed or deployed abroad. This provision does not require any prior period of residence or specified period of physical presence within the United States for any legal permanent resident spouse of a U.S. citizen who is an employee of the United States Government (including a member of the U.S. armed forces) or recognized nonprofit organization who is stationed abroad in such employment for at least one year.
U.S. Naturalization Options for Surviving Spouses and Children of Military Members
It may be possible for the surviving spouses of a military member to obtain immigration benefits. The surviving immediate family member of a U.S. citizen who dies during a period of honorable service in an active duty status in the U.S. armed forces may be eligible for naturalization. The surviving spouse, parent or children of family members seeking immigration benefits are given special consideration in the processing of their applications for permanent residence or for classification as an immediate relative.
How do I replace a lost, stolen or destroyed naturalization certificate or certificate of citizenship from the USCIS?
You would need to apply for a replacement document to show that you are a naturalized citizen. You have to apply through the USCIS. If you need help with obtaining naturalization certificate, or a certificate of citizenship, please feel free to call our experienced Los Angeles immigration attorneys. We offer a free initial consultation.
Article Published by Graham Garland Post.