How can a green card holder apply for citizenship? Here’s the breakdown of the path from permanent residence to citizenship.
Step 1: Be a Green Card Holder for 5 Years
Among the many requirements for U.S. citizenship, you must have been a green card holder for three to five years before you qualify for naturalization. The exact length of time can differ depending on your situation. For example, while most applicants must wait five years, those married to a U.S. citizen may only need to wait for three. The requirement can also change if you served in the U.S. military.
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Note that some requirements differ slightly for green card holders married to U.S. citizens and members of the U.S. military and their families. In general, most people must meet the following requirements:
- Be 18 or older at the time of filing
- Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application. Students may apply for naturalization either where they go to school or where their family lives (if they are still financially dependent on their parents).
- Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
- Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
- Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
- Be able to read, write, and speak English and have the knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
- Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law
Step 2: Apply for U.S. Citizenship
Once you’re sure that you meet all the requirements, it’s time to apply for U.S. citizenship. You’ll apply for citizenship through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The application is Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. It’s the longest immigration application and the most complicated. The instructions alone are 18 pages and the form itself is 20 pages. You’ll also have to submit numerous supporting documents to prove that you meet the eligibility requirements. The filing fee is a whopping $725!
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Step 3: The Citizenship Test & Interview
After your citizenship application is approved, you’ll be scheduled to sit the citizenship test and interview.
During the interview, you’ll be asked questions about your eligibility for U.S. citizenship. You may be asked to bring along originals of documents you submitted with your application. You may be asked some of the same questions you answered on your N-400 application. The interviewer is simply trying to ensure that you didn’t lie on your application and to verify your eligibility. They are also testing your ability to speak and understand basic English, a requirement of naturalization.
The citizenship test includes an English reading and writing test, and a civics test. The English test requires you to read and write one English sentence. The civics test requires you to answer 6/10 questions correctly. The questions are available to study on the USCIS website.
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