Requirements for Citizenship for Five-Year Green Card Holders

The ultimate goal for most immigrants to the United States is to become a permanent U.S. citizens. Citizenship will allow you to live and work in the U.S. without having to renew your green card. United States citizenship also allows you to vote in U.S. elections.

If you’ve been a legal permanent resident for at least five years, you may be eligible for naturalization, conversion to U.S. citizenship. Learn more about eligibility requirements and who is exempt from the five-year rule.

us passport rests on permanent resident card
A U.S. passport rests on a permanent resident card. If you have held permanent residency for more than five years, you may apply for U.S. citizenship.

Determine Your Eligibility for U.S. Citizenship

Before applying for U.S. citizenship, verify your eligibility. In order to apply for naturalization, you need to:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Demonstrate good moral character
  • Read, write, and speak basic English
  • Pass a civics and history test about the U.S. government
  • Demonstrate an attachment to the U.S. Constitution

Do you think you might be eligible for citizenship? Take a look at this short video. If you’re ready to take the next step, take our free eligibility quiz.

Additional Requirements for Citizenship

Even if you have been a green card holder for over five years, you must meet additional requirements for U.S. citizenship. You must prove that you:

  • Have resided in the United States continuously for five years
  • Have been physically present in the United States for 30 months of the last five years
  • Have lived in the state or district in which you are applying for at least three months

You may have to wait longer than five years if you do not meet the residency requirements or you have spent more than one year outside the United States.

An Exception to the Five-Year Rule

Permanent residents who are married to and living with a U.S. citizen may apply for citizenship after only three years. This exception to the five-year rule may apply even if your green card was not obtained through marriage. For instance, if your employer-sponsored you for a green card and you married a U.S. citizen soon after, you may apply for citizenship three years later.

Applying to Become a U.S. Citizen

To apply for citizenship you’ll have to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The form itself is 20 pages long, while the instructions to fill out the application are 18 pages long. Utilizing an immigration filing service can ensure your application is filed correctly and promptly.

FileRight is here to simplify the application process. Our software asks simple questions and populates your answers where they belong on the form.

How Much Does It Cost to Apply for U.S. Citizenship?

If you are a green card holder ready to apply for U.S. citizenship, be prepared to pay government fees. Form N-400 must be submitted with the $640 filing fee. There is also an $85 fee for biometrics, if applicable. These fees may be paid online or by mail with your application. 

If your total household income is at or below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you may be eligible for a fee waiver.

What Happens Next?

After applying for citizenship with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you’ll receive a receipt of your application, followed by a biometrics appointment. An appointment for an in-person interview will follow. That’s when you’ll take the citizenship test. When you pass the test, USCIS will schedule your naturalization ceremony. And afterwards, it’s time to celebrate your citizenship! Learn about the benefits of citizenship.

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