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When Can I Apply For U.S. Citizenship?

When Can I Apply For U.S. Citizenship?

There are many benefits to obtaining U.S. citizenship, including the right to vote and petition for family members to immigrate.

To become a citizen through the naturalization process, you must first have permanent residency (a green card) as well as satisfy the following other requirements.

Eligibility Criteria

In order to apply, you must have held lawful permanent resident status for at least five years preceding your application, with a few exceptions.

In addition to maintaining this status, you must also have lived in the U.S. continuously for those five years and physically present in the U.S. for at least half of that time.

Further requirements include that you must be at least 18 years old and of good moral character.  With a few exceptions, you must be able to speak, read, and write in English as well as pass the citizenship test which covers U.S. history and government.


A few exceptions allow individuals to obtain citizenship without meeting the above criteria.

If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you only need to meet this requirement for a period of three years, although you will need to be married to your citizen spouse throughout the entire process up to the swearing in ceremony for this exception to apply.  This marriage exception applies even if your green card was not obtained through marriage. However, if you are a victim of domestic abuse, there is an exception to the three-year marriage requirement to allow you to petition for citizenship.

There are partial exceptions to the residency requirement for refugees and asylees.  If you obtained your green card on the basis of coming to the U.S. as either, part of your time as a refugee or asylee counts toward the five-year period, as if you were a permanent resident.

Consult with your immigration attorney to discuss your eligibility and whether any of these exceptions apply to your situation.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is provided for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be construed as offering legal advice, or creating an attorney-client relationship between the reader and the attorney. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content on this site without seeking appropriate legal advice about your individual facts and circumstances from an attorney licensed in your state. 

Charlotte Family & Divorce Lawyers and Immigration Attorneys

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