From Permanent Resident to U.S. Citizen: Applying for Naturalization

As a permanent resident of the United States, you may be considering the significant step of applying for U.S. citizenship. Citizenship not only grants you many rights but also entails various responsibilities. This blog aims to provide detailed information on the process of applying for U.S. citizenship, also known as naturalization. We highly recommend seeking guidance from an experienced immigration lawyer to ensure a smooth and successful application process.

Basic Requirements for Naturalization

To be eligible for naturalization, you must fulfill specific requirements outlined by U.S. immigration law. These requirements include:

  1. Age: You must be 18 or older to apply for naturalization.
  2. Permanent Resident Status: Generally, you must have held permanent resident status for a specific duration. This duration is usually five years, although it may be shortened to three years if you obtain permanent resident status through marriage to a U.S. citizen. 
  3. Good Moral Character: You must demonstrate good moral character throughout the naturalization process. This involves adhering to the laws of the United States, including paying taxes, maintaining a clean criminal record, and fulfilling financial obligations.
  4. U.S. Government Knowledge: Applicants are expected to possess a basic understanding of the U.S. government, including its history, principles, and functions. However, individuals with permanent physical or mental impairments that hinder their ability to fulfill this requirement may be exempted.
  5. Continuous Residence and Physical Presence: You must have resided continuously in the United States for a specified period, which generally aligns with the duration of permanent residency. Additionally, you should have maintained a physical presence within the country. Indeed, extended absences from the United States may disrupt the continuous residence requirement, so it’s crucial to consult an immigration attorney if you have concerns regarding your specific circumstances.
  6. English Language Proficiency: Proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking basic English is another essential requirement for naturalization. Exceptions to this requirement exist for individuals who, at the time of filing, are at least 50 years old and have been permanent residents for at least 20 years or at least 55 years old and have been permanent residents for at least 15 years. Additionally, those with permanent physical or mental impairments may be exempted.


When Can I Apply for Naturalization?

You can submit your naturalization application once you meet the following criteria:

  1. Five Years of Permanent Residency: If you have been a permanent resident for at least five years, you are generally eligible to apply for naturalization.
  2. Three Years of Permanent Residency through Marriage: If you obtained permanent resident status through marriage to a U.S. citizen and have been married to and living with your U.S. citizen spouse for at least three years, you may apply for naturalization. 
  3. Honorable Military Service: If you served in the U.S. military, you may be eligible to apply for naturalization without fulfilling the typical residency requirements.

Spouses of U.S. citizens and military members may have expedited eligibility for naturalization, so it is crucial to consult an immigration attorney to understand your specific circumstances.

How to Apply for Naturalization

To begin the naturalization process, you must complete Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. For military personnel interested in becoming U.S. citizens, the USCIS provides a brochure titled M-599, Naturalization Information for Military Personnel. This resource offers specific guidance tailored to the unique circumstances of military service members.

Preparing for the Citizenship Test

As part of the naturalization process, you must take a citizenship test, which includes sections on English language proficiency and civics knowledge. The USCIS offers educational materials and resources to help you prepare for this test. By visiting the Citizenship and Resource Center, you can access information on finding English and citizenship preparation classes in your area, learn about free citizenship information sessions offered by USCIS, and download study materials for the English and Civics portions of the citizenship test.

Explore more: 

10 Things to Know When Applying for Citizenship

What if I Applied for Naturalization Based on Marriage, but I am now Separated?

Can I submit my Application for Naturalization (N-400) while my Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence (I-751) is still pending?


Seek Professional Guidance

Applying for U.S. citizenship through naturalization is a significant step that carries various legal requirements. Navigating the complex immigration laws and ensuring a successful application can be challenging. That’s why it is highly advisable to seek the assistance of an experienced immigration lawyer. An immigration attorney can provide personalized guidance, assess your eligibility, help you gather the necessary documentation, and ensure your application is filed correctly and on time.

I.S. Law Firm has a team of dedicated immigration lawyers specializing in U.S. immigration law, including naturalization and citizenship applications. We are committed to helping individuals like you achieve their dream of becoming U.S. citizens. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation at the link Schedule a Consultation – I.S. Law Firm, PLLC. Let us guide you through the naturalization process with professionalism, expertise, and personalized attention.