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A closer look at the most common path to naturalization as a U.S. citizen

For permanent residents, the dream -- and the goal -- is to one day secure U.S. citizenship so that they may finally be afforded all of the tremendous opportunities that accompany this change in status, including enhanced employment opportunities, protection from deportation, the chance to run for public office and, perhaps most significantly, the right to vote.

While it may sometimes seem as if this dream will be hard to realize, it's important for green card holders to remember that U.S. immigration law provides multiple paths to securing citizenship. Indeed, such paths are available to green card holders married to U.S. citizens, green card holders serving in the military and, most significantly, green card holders of at least five years.

Those permanent residents who fall into this latter category may apply for U.S. citizenship via the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, provided they are able to satisfy the following eight requirements:

  1. The applicant must be at least 18 years old at the time of filing.
  2. The applicant must have been a green card holder for the five years immediately preceding the filing of the Form N-400.
  3. The applicant must have lived in the state with jurisdiction over their place of residence for a minimum of three months (For students this can be where their school is located or where their family, on whom they are still financially dependent, is located).
  4. The applicant must have resided continuously in the U.S. for five years in the U.S. before applying.
  5. The applicant must have been physically present in the U.S. for 30 months within the applicable five-year timeframe.
  6. The applicant must reside continuously in the U.S. from the date the Form N-400 is submitted to the time of naturalization.
  7. The applicant must possess both an understanding and knowledge of U.S. government and history, and be able to read, write and speak English proficiently.
  8. The applicant must possess a good moral character, be attached to the principles of the U.S. Constitution, and "well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law."

As you can plainly see from the foregoing list, this path to citizenship, while seemingly wide open, can nevertheless prove difficult for the uninitiated to navigate on their own. For this reason, those seeking to become U.S. citizens should consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can answer their questions and guide them through the process of realizing their dream. 

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