If you have been a legal permanent resident in the United States and want to become a U.S. Citizenship it is important to be able to first answer the question, do I qualify to apply for citizenship? There are requirements for citizenship that must be properly evaluated before applying. If you qualify and after your case has been reviewed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS, you will ultimately be granted citizenship through naturalization.
Do I qualify to apply for citizenship?
1. Are you a Permanent Resident in the United States?
In order to qualify to apply for U.S. Citizenship you must first be a legal permanent resident in the United States. This is also referred to as a green card holder, having LPR status, having residency or being a resident.
2. How long have you been a Legal Permanent Resident?
If you are a resident, then the next question is how long have you been a resident? The requirement through USCIS is that you must be a legal permanent resident for a minimum of five (5) years before you can be eligible to apply for citizenship in the United States. In addition you must show that during that entire time you lived continuously in the United States and did not spend more than half of that time for example more than 2.5 years outside the U.S.
- An exception to this requirement is that you obtained your legal permanent residency through a U.S. Citizenship spouse then you only have to prove three (3 years) of residency before applying for your citizenship.
3. Do you have good moral character?
You must be able to show you have good moral character in order to be granted citizenship in the United States. Certain crimes can affect this eligibility requirement and having a conviction can make you not only ineligible to apply but can also put you at risk for deportation.
4. Do I have to pass an exam to become a U.S. Citizen?
Yes, an exam is required in order to obtain your U.S. Citizenship. This exam, called the Civics Test, tests your English language proficiency and United States history and government.
- An exception to this requirement is that you can qualify to take the civics exam in the language of your country of birth if you are 50 years old or older and have been a permanent resident for 20 years or more OR you are 55 years old or older and have been a permanent resident for at least 15 years.
It is recommended you have an immigration lawyer review your case before you apply to ensure eligibility. A criminal review is always recommended if you have had any encounter with the local police such as a ticket, court appearance, arrest, or jail time.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into citizenship.