BECOMING A U.S. CITIZEN: THE PATH FROM LEGAL PERMANENT RESIDENT TO UNITED STATES CITIZEN IS NOT AS DIFFICULT AS YOU MAY THINK

Have you been a legal permanent resident for at least five years? If so, why not take the next step and become a naturalized U.S. citizen? An applicant who wants to become an American citizen must, generally, meet the following requirements:

(1) Be at least 18 years of age;

(2) Be a lawful permanent resident (“green card” holder);

(3) Have continuously resided in the United States for the five years preceding the filing of the application, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen;

(4) Be physically present in the United States for at least half of the past five years, or half of the past three years if married to a U.S. citizen (here, knowing your complete travel history is critical);

(5) Be a person of good moral character (“GMC”) during the past five (or three) years (note that GMC does not mean perfection and you may still be eligible for naturalization despite minor criminal convictions);

(6) Pass an English and U.S. civics examination (there are some exceptions based on age, time as a permanent resident, or medical condition); and

(7) Be willing to take the full oath of allegiance. (8 C.F.R. §316.2).

In addition, the applicant must show residency within the district having jurisdiction over his/her place of residency for at least three months preceding the filing of the application, and pay a filing fee unless eligible for a fee waiver or applying based on service in the U.S. Armed Forces. Lastly, male applicants born after 1960 who became lawful permanent residents and lived in the United States between 18 and 25 are required to provide information confirming registration with Selective Service.

The benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen are many, including petitioning for other family members, having the right to vote, and being eligible for certain jobs with the federal government.

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