Naturalization is the process of changing your status from that of a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) to that of a U.S. citizen. In addition to meeting the statutory requirements for naturalization, an applicant must take an English reading test, English writing test, and a U.S. history/government test.
A lawful permanent resident (green card holder) may apply for naturalization up to 90 days prior to the date on which he or she meets all of the requirements for naturalization. To be eligible for naturalization, he or she must:
- Have been a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) for the last five years (or three years, if married to a U.S. citizen)
- Be at least eighteen years of age;
- Have resided in the United States for at least five years with no absences of more than one year;
- Have been physically present in the United States for at least thirty months of the last five years (50% of the time);
- Have resided in the district in which he or she is applying for at least three months
- Be a person of good moral character for the last five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen). The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may choose to look outside these periods, as well. The applicant should pay all overdue U.S. federal and state income taxes prior to applying for naturalization;
- Be attached to the principles of the Constitution;
- Be able to read/write/speak English. A waiver of this requirement is available for those with mental or certain physical impairments. An exemption from the English requirement is available if you are over fifty and have been a green card holder for at least twenty years, or if you are over fifty-five and have been a green card holder for at least fifteen years;
- Be knowledgeable about U.S. history and government; and
- If male, residing in the United States between the ages of 18 and 26 in any status other than valid non-immigrant status, have registered with the Selective Service.
Advantages of Becoming a U.S. Citizen
For most people, becoming a U.S. citizen is recommended due to the numerous benefits it provides, such as:
- Voting rights;
- Jury duty;
- Eligibility for political office;
- Eligibility for government jobs;
- Unrestricted travel rights;
- Protection from deportation (by contrast, green card holders can be deported);
- Shorter waiting times if applying for relatives abroad;
- Fewer restrictions on estate taxes;
- Full social security benefits if retiring abroad (green card holders only eligible for 50% benefits); and
- In certain cases, automatic acquisition of derivative citizenship for children under 18, without a separate application.
Disadvantages of Becoming a U.S. Citizen
By contrast, there may be situations where it is better for an individual not to apply, due to:
- Possible loss of citizenship of native country;
- Possible loss of titles of nobility; and
- Possible deportation proceedings if individual has falsely claimed U.S. citizenship in the past, or has been involved in certain criminal activities.
Please contact us or schedule an initial consultation for further information.