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Eve Guillergan PLLC
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A lawful permanent resident (green card holder) can become a U.S. citizen through naturalization.  Many people ask, "Why should I become a U.S. citizen?"  The advantage or benefit to becoming a citizen is that you are able to vote in the United States, serve on juries, sponsor family members for permanent residency, and cannot be deported.  Considering these changing times post 9/11, it is our recommendation that all lawful permanent residents naturalize, as there may be stricter rules governing the foreigners in the U.S.  

In order to be eligible, a permanent resident must be at least 18 years old.  Also, the green card holder must have been a permanent resident for at least five years, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen.  In order to benefit from this three-year rule, you need to have your greencard for three years and be married for three years.  
A person must show that they have been a person of good moral character, can speak, read, and write English, and know and understand the fundamentals of U.S. history and civics.  Special circumstances, such as being disabled, active military service, veterans, and spouses of U.S. citizens working or stationed overseas can affect both the timing required for naturalization and/or the English/History requirement.  In addition, issues such as arrests, failure to pay child support, frequent/lengthy trips abroad must be reviewed because they may affect a green card holder's eligibility to naturalize.


In order to naturalize, a permanent resident must be at least years old.


An applicant must have been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence. Lawfully admitted for permanent residence means having been legally accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant in accordance with the immigration laws. Individuals who have been lawfully admitted as permanent residents will be asked to produce an I-551, Alien Registration Receipt Card, as proof of their status.

Residence and Physical Presence

In order to file you need to show the following:

Good Moral Character

Generally, an applicant must show that he or she has been a person of good moral character for the statutory period (typically five years or three years if married to a U.S. citizen or one year for Armed Forces expedite) prior to filing for naturalization. The Service is not limited to the statutory period in determining whether an applicant has established good moral character. An applicant is permanently barred from naturalization if he or she has ever been convicted of murder. An applicant is also permanently barred from naturalization if he or she has been convicted of an aggravated felony as defined in section 101(a)(43) of the Act on or after November 29, 1990. A person also cannot be found to be a person of good moral character if during the last five years he or she:
An applicant must disclose all relevant facts to the Service, including his or her entire criminal history, regardless of whether the criminal history disqualifies the applicant under the enumerated provisions.

Attachment to the Constitution

An applicant must show that he or she is attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States.


Applicants for naturalization must be able to read, write, speak, and understand words in ordinary usage in the English language. Applicants exempt from this requirement are those who on the date of filing:

United States Government and History Knowledge

An applicant for naturalization must demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history and of the principles and form of government of the United States. Applicants exempt from this requirement are those who, on the date of filing, have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects the applicant’s ability to learn U.S. History and Government.
Applicants who have been residing in the U.S. subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for at least 20 years and are over the age of 65 will be afforded special consideration in satisfying this requirement.

Oath of Allegiance

To become a citizen, one must take the oath of allegiance. By doing so, an applicant swears to:
In certain instances, where the applicant establishes that he or she is opposed to any type of service in armed forces based on religious teaching or belief, BCIS will permit these applicants to take a modified oath.

Spouses of U.S. Citizens

Generally, certain lawful permanent residents married to a U.S. citizen may file for naturalization after residing continuously in the United States for three years if immediately preceding the filing of the application:
If an applicant obtained his greencard through marriage and was given a conditional greencard, then that period of time while he was a conditional greencard holder still counts towards the three years.  However, the conditional status of the greencard must be lifted and the applicant must be a lawful permanent resident without conditional status at the time of his naturalization interview.  If the conditional status has not been lifted, then immigration will not grant the naturalization.
There are also exceptions for lawful permanent residents married to U.S. citizens stationed or employed abroad. Some lawful permanent residents may not have to comply with the residence or physical presence requirements when the U.S. citizen spouse is employed by one of the following:

Veterans of U.S. Armed Forces

Certain applicants who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible to file for naturalization based on current or prior U.S. military service. Such applicants should file the N-400 Military Naturalization Packet.

Lawful Permanent Residents with Three Years U.S. Military Service

An applicant who has served for three years in the U.S. military and who is a lawful permanent resident is excused from any specific period of required residence, period of residence in any specific place, or physical presence within the United States if an application for naturalization is filed while the applicant is still serving or within six months of an honorable discharge.
To be eligible for these exemptions, an applicant must:
Applicants who file for naturalization more than six months after termination of three years of service in the U.S. military may count any periods of honorable service as residence and physical presence in the United States.

An applicant who has served honorably during any of the following periods of conflict is entitled to certain considerations:

World War I - 4/16/17 to 11/11/18;
World War II - 9/1/39 to 12/31/46;
Korean Conflict - 6/25/50 to 7/1/55;
Vietnam Conflict - 2/28/61 to 10/15/78;
Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm - 8/29/90 to 4/11/91; or
any other period which the President, by Executive Order, has designated as a period in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or were engaged in military operations involving armed conflict with hostile foreign forces.

Applicants who have served during any of the aforementioned conflicts may apply for naturalization based on military service after qualifying service and the requirements for specific periods of physical presence in the United States and residence in the United States are waived.

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