Naturalization as a Lawful Permanent Resident
While there are several options available to obtain citizenship through naturalization, the most common path to obtain citizenship is for a green card holder who has resided in the U.S. for five years.
While there are certain exceptions, USCIS states the general eligibility requirements for this method of naturalization are as follows. A permanent resident must:
• Be green card holder of at least five years;
• Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing;
• Have lived within the state for at least three months prior to the application;
• Have continuous residence in the U.S. as a green card holder for the proceeding five years;
Continuous residence means that the applicant maintained residence within the U.S. for five years. USCIS highlights the fact that extended absences out of the U.S. may disrupt the applicant’s continuous residence. Absences that are longer than six months but less than one year may disrupt continuous residence, unless the applicant can prove otherwise. Absences that are longer than one year may also disrupt continuous residence. Exceptions may be granted for this requirement for certain types of overseas employment.
• Be physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the last five years;
USCIS will count the day that the applicant departs from the United States and the day the applicant returns to the U.S. as days of physical presence.
• Reside continuously within the U.S. from the date of application to the time of naturalization;
• Be able to read, write and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. civics; and,
Sometimes, applicants may be exempt from the English language and civics requirements. Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who are 50 years old or older who have lived in the U.S. for 20 years or more are exempt from the language requirement. LPRs who are 55 years old or older who have lived in the U.S. for at least 15 years are exempt from the language requirement. In both of these cases, the civics test is still required. LPRs 65 years old or older who have lived in the U.S. for at least 20 years are given special consideration regarding the civics requirement.
Applicants who have a physical or developmental disability may be eligible for an exception to the English and civics naturalization requirements. In order to request this exception, a licensed medical or osteopathic doctor or licensed clinical psychologist must fill out a form stating the applicant’s diagnosis.
• Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the U.S. Constitution, and disposed to well-being of the U.S. during all relevant times under the law.
When applying for naturalization, applicants are required to take an oath of allegiance in a public ceremony. Certain modifications to the Oath of Allegiance may be made.
If an applicant meets these eligibility requirements, they may apply for citizenship. However, it is important to remember that this process applies to adult green card holders. The process for spouses of U.S. citizens and children born abroad to a U.S. citizen or citizens differs.
Obtaining U.S. citizenship confers a permanent benefit. However, the process of applying can be complicated and intricate. We suggest consulting with an immigration attorney before applying. The attorneys at Berardi Immigration Law handle numerous citizenship applications. Our attorneys would be happy to speak with you regarding any of your questions or concerns!