Green card holders can apply for U.S. citizenship after five years, three years if still in a good-faith marriage to the U.S. citizen through whom the resident obtained the green card.
An applicant must prove good moral character for at least the three- or five-year period, and meet certain continuous residency requirements.
Choosing to become a U.S. citizen is a smart move for many permanent residents. The benefits include the ability to vote, to immigrate family to the U.S., to travel with a U.S. passport, and insulation from future immigration consequences.
The citizenship application form, now 21-pages, demands a detailed accounting of your life-up-to-now (marriages, jobs, addresses, children, travel, fraud, crimes, organization membership) and a commitment to future behavior.
English Language Skill
The citizenship interview includes a two-sentence reading and writing test to prove English-language literacy, in most cases. There are exceptions for people older than 50 or 55, depending upon a combination of age and length of time as a permanent resident.
The citizenship interview requires passing a U.S. history and government test. Applicants are asked randomly selected questions and are given ten chances to answer six correctly. Self-study and self-testing are available through USCIS and the Smithsonian Institution.
A person with a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment is eligible to apply for an exception to the English and civics requirements.
No matter how minor the offense, or however favorably it concluded, immigration takes crimes seriously. A criminal case may derail naturalization and lead to deportation. Immigration demands certified copies of your complete records, including proof where cases were sealed or expunged.
Divorce from the spouse through whom you got your green card
This isn’t a deal-breaker, but immigration will think twice, and look twice, to see if there was marriage fraud evidence previously overlooked.
Delinquent Income Taxes or Child Support
To prove good moral character you must have proof of income tax filings for at least the past three or five years, no past due taxes owed (or proof of payment arrangement) and have no child-support arrears.
Excessive trips out of the U.S., and an extended stay out of the U.S. may have immigration and naturalization consequences.
Men between the ages of 18-26 must register and provide proof they did.
Attorney Lynn S. Olinger has successfully dealt with all of these obstacles and assisted clients with one or more of these risks become U.S. citizens.