Those who wish to apply for US citizenship through naturalization must first determine if they meet the US citizenship requirements. Unless you are applying for US citizenship as a current or former member of the US military, you must be a lawful permanent resident (LPR) green card holder for a certain number of years prior to applying for US citizenship. The requirements for residency citizenship (as opposed to military citizenship) are fairly standard, although some applicants who are married to US citizens or who obtained green cards via special categories do enjoy relaxed requirements (see marriage citizenship for more information on obtaining US citizenship by marriage).
Green Card Citizenship Requirements
To apply for citizenship, you must be able to provide evidence that you meet the following citizenship requirements.
- Age – you must be at least 18 years old to submit a citizenship application;
- Residency – you must have 5 years of continuous lawful permanent residence (LPR) in the United States as a green card holder prior to filing the application for citizenship;
- Physical presence – you must have been physically present in the US for at least half of the residency period in the aggregate (e.g. 30 months);
- Filing Location – you must be a resident of the state of local USCIS district where you are applying for US citizenship for at least three months;
- After filing the application for citizenship, you must maintain continuous residence in the US until you are sworn in;
- Good moral character – USCIS officials have discretion in determining if a person applying for citizenship is of good moral character. Criminal arrests or convictions, immigration violations, tax filing history, selective service history and other background characteristics can affect good moral character determination.
- Knowledge of basic English & US civics – naturalization applicants must be able to read, write and speak English and have basic knowledge of US history and government;
A Citizenship Lawyer can help determine if you have met the US citizenship requirements
If you have been outside of the United States for extended periods of time, or have issues in your background that could prevent a finding of good moral character, you should contact a citizenship lawyer prior to beginning the naturalization process to ensure that you will meet all of the US citizenship requirements. It is also wise to have a citizenship lawyer assist you in filing out the, often confusing, citizenship forms. Failure to to provide accurate and truthful information to USCIS, especially when filling out and submitting form N-400 (Application for Naturalization), could cause officials to determine that you lack good moral character.
A citizenship lawyer can help determine your citizenship eligibility, before you risk money on the N-400 filing fee (currently $725). See citizenship lawyer fees for more information.