The general rule is that anyone over the age of 18 who has been a lawful permanent resident for at least five (5) years may apply for naturalization 90 days before the end of the 5th year or at any time thereafter. The applicant must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the five years prior to the date of filing of the application and must have resided for at least three months within the state in which the application is filed prior to filing.An individual who has been married to a U.S. citizen for 3 years may file for naturalization 90 days minus 3 years from the date lawful permanent or conditional resident status is granted (or later). The individual must have been physically present in the U.S. for ½ the 3 year time period.The applicant must demonstrate “good moral character,” support the principles of the U.S. Constitution, be willing to bear arms on behalf of the U.S. or perform other work of national importance, and must not otherwise be barred from naturalizing, i.e. not having committed an aggravated felony. All naturalization applicants will be fingerprinted by the CIS and have their criminal backgrounds reviewed by the FBI.
The applicant must demonstrate a basic ability to read, write, speak, and understand the English language. This does not apply to persons over 50 and living in the U.S. as a permanent resident for 20 years or persons who are over 55 years of age and living in the U.S. as a permanent resident for 15 years. An applicant must also pass an oral or written test on the history and government of the U.S. The applicant must be interviewed in person by a CIS officer.
After the applicant is approved for naturalization, the applicant will attend a public ceremony and take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. After taking the oath, the applicant will return the permanent resident/green card to the CIS and receive a certificate of naturalization. This certificate of naturalization can be used to obtain a U.S. passport.
The continuous residence, physical presence and “good moral character” requirements are the most common pitfalls for applicants. In addition, if you have ever been convicted of a crime, you should be extremely cautious before applying for U.S. citizenship. Past criminal convictions – even if they have been expunged – can make you deportable.
There are many special exceptions and provisions of the law for certain applicants for naturalization. If you are interested in applying for naturalization, please contact us so that we can assess your eligibility.