Citizenship, also known by its legal name of Naturalization, is available to Lawful Permanent Residents of the U.S. after they have met certain requirements. Applicants for citizenship must be at least 18 years old and must establish that they qualify to become U.S. citizens based on residence and physical presence; good moral character; knowledge of the English language, U.S. history and government; and loyalty to the United States. There are exceptions and exemptions to the requirements for military personnel. The entire process to become a U.S. Citizen varies by jurisdiction; however, the normal time frame is between nine months and eighteen months.
Residency and Physical Presence
In order to qualify for citizenship, an applicant must be a Lawful Permanent Resident, i.e., the holder of a “green card” and have lived in the U.S. for a certain period of time. If the applicant became a permanent resident based upon marriage to a U.S. citizen, he/she may apply for citizenship after three years from the time permanent residence or conditional residence was obtained provided he/she is still living with the U.S. Citizen spouse at the time of filing the application. Otherwise, the applicant must have resided continuously in the U.S. for at least five years.
An applicant for citizenship must be physically present in the U.S. for at least one-half of the 5 years (or one-half of the 3 years if spouse of a U.S. Citizen) immediately preceding the application. He/she may not have any single absence from the U.S. of more than one year. An applicant must reside within the state in which the application is filed for at least three months. For more information on applying for Citizenship (Learn More).