Naturalization – Becoming A United States Citizen

If you are a United States legal permanent resident (“LPR” or “green card holder”), you may be eligible to become a United States citizen.  United States (“U.S.”) citizenship opens the door to substantial benefits, including having the right to vote, eligibility for federal benefits or jobs, and unlimited length of international travel.

In order to qualify for citizenship in the United States, LPRs must meet the following requirements:

  • Applicant must be admitted to permanent resident status;
  • Applicant is at least 18 years of age;
  • Applicant has been continuously residing in the U.S. for a minimum period of time (generally 5 years, but 3 years for spouses of U.S. citizens);
  • Applicant has been residing in the state of application for a minimum of 3 months;
  • Applicant has been physically present in the U.S. for a minimum period (at least half the period of required continuous residence);
  • Applicant must reside in the U.S. from the date of filing for naturalization until actual admission to citizenship;
  • Applicant is able to read, write, and speak ordinary English;
  • Applicant has knowledge of U.S. history and government;
  • Applicant has good moral character; and
  • Applicant is attached to the principles of the U.S. constitution.

Determining eligibility for naturalization can be a tricky matter.  An application to naturalize invokes the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to perform another review of the applicant’s permanent resident application.  If USCIS concludes that the applicant unlawfully obtained LPR status, the finding will render the applicant ineligible for naturalization and may jeopardize the existing LPR status.  Additionally, the principal beneficiary’s unlawful procurement of LPR status may affect a derivative beneficiary’s ability to naturalize. Eligibility is further complicated if the applicant has engaged in fraud or any criminal activity.

The following actions undermine a finding of good moral character for naturalization purposes:

  • A criminal record, regardless of the nature and date of the criminal conviction;
  • Unlawful voting or false claim to U.S. citizenship;
  • Tax fraud or willful concealment of income;
  • Smuggling of undocumented persons; or
  • Giving false testimony for purposes of obtaining immigration benefits.