What is Naturalization?

There are various ways for a foreign national to become a United States Citizen; naturalization, through permanent residency, is one of those ways.

Who Can Apply for Naturalization and When?

Green card holders who have continuously resided in the U.S. for five years since they were granted residency are eligible to apply for naturalization. Green cardholders who are married to a United States citizen, and who have been living in “marital union” with that citizen for three years are eligible to apply for naturalization after three years of residency.

Requirements for Naturalization

  1. Must be a Lawful Permanent Resident.
  1. Must be 18 years or older.
  1. Continuous Residence following LPR status: must be continuously resident in the U.S. for either 3 or 5 years (see above).
  1. Disruption of Continuous Residence: An absence from the United States of 6 months to one year creates a rebuttable presumption that you’ve abandoned your residency. An absence of a year or more will disrupt your continuous residence. If you believe that you will be out of the United States for more than six months or a year, contact an experienced immigration attorney who can help you take steps to protect your residency.
  1. If your residency has been disrupted by a prolonged absence from the U.S., you will have to wait until you have the requisite, uninterrupted continuous residence, to apply for naturalization.
  1. Physical Presence: You must have been physically present in the United States for at least one-half of the 5 or 3 year period.
  1. For the five-year continuous residency requirement, this means that you have been physically present for at least 912.5 days out of the past five years.
  1. For the three-year continuous residency requirement, this means that you have been physically present for at least 547.5 of the past three years.
  1. Good Moral Character (GMC)
  1. You must be able to demonstrate that you’ve had good moral character for the statutory period (either 3 or 5 years). However, USCIS may look at an applicant’s conduct outside of the 3 or 5 years as well.
  1. Tax Returns: You should be able to demonstrate that you’ve filed federal tax returns for the previous 3 or 5 years, or the officer may find that you lack GMC.
  1. Child Support: You should be able to demonstrate that you are current with your child support payments, or the officer may find that you lack GMC.
  1. Certain criminal convictions and certain behaviors will make you automatically ineligible for naturalization.
  1. You must be able to speak, read, and write in English. The interview will be conducted in English unless you qualify for one of the exceptions.

Additional Things to Know:

  • At the time you file your N-400 you must have resided in that state for at least three months.
  • You can apply for naturalization 90 days before the three or five-year anniversary of your lawful permanent residency. This is to accommodate for N-400 processing delays.
  • If you are a conditional resident, and you qualify to file for naturalization after three years, you can submit the N-400 while your I-751 is pending.
  • You must continue to reside in the U.S. from the time you file the N-400 until the oath ceremony.

If you would like information about qualifying for naturalization, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, are experienced in both simple and complex naturalization cases. Please feel free to call us at 510-488-1020 to see how we can help!