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When Can a Green Card Holder Apply for Citizenship?

For many lawful permanent residents (green card holders), applying to become a U.S. citizen is the next important step. But when exactly can you apply? Let’s explore the key requirements with our Salem US citizenship attorney.

1. Be 18 Years of Age:

You must be at least 18 years old to go through the naturalization process to become a citizen.

2. Wait Five Years, or Sometimes Only Three Years:

The general rule is that a green card holder can apply for naturalized U.S. citizenship after five years. For example, if you received your green card in 2020, you’ll need to wait until 2025 to apply.

However, there are exceptions to the five-year requirement:

  • Marriage to a U.S. citizen: If you have been married to a U.S. citizen for a full three years and have lived with them throughout this time, you can apply after three years.
  • Asylees: Asylees can apply after four years of being a lawful permanent resident.
  • Refugees: Refugees can apply after five years from the day they entered the U.S., resulting in a shorter waiting period.

In some cases, individuals who have served in the Armed Forces may also be eligible to apply before the completion of five years. Please reach out to our law firm if you have any questions regarding your specific circumstances.

3. Maintain Continuous Residence:

To be eligible for naturalization, you must have maintained continuous residence in the U.S. The U.S. government requires continuous residence and does not grant naturalization to individuals who spend extended periods outside the country, indicating their primary residence is elsewhere.

Any absence from the U.S. for more than six months can disrupt continuous residence. If you anticipate the need to spend more time outside the U.S. for family reasons, pursuing education, or any other purpose, it is essential to consult an attorney promptly.

4. Meet the Physical Presence Requirement:

To apply for naturalization, you must demonstrate physical presence in the U.S. The minimum physical presence requirements depend on your specific situation:

  • If you qualify to apply after three years of continuous residence, you must show at least 18 months of physical presence.
  • If you qualify to apply after five years of continuous residence, you must show at least 30 months of physical presence.

It’s important to understand the distinction between “continuous residence” and “physical presence.” Continuous residence implies that your primary home is in the U.S., with no absence exceeding six months. On the other hand, physical presence refers to the actual time spent physically in the U.S. Taking shorter trips outside the country will not break your continuous residence but might affect your physical presence.

5. Satisfy Other Requirements:

Our team can assist in reviewing whether you meet additional requirements, including:

  • Residing in your state or USCIS district for at least 90 days before submitting your naturalization application.
  • Demonstrating good moral character.
  • Being able to read, write, and speak English.
  • Passing a U.S. Civics exam.

Contact Vanderwall Immigration to Schedule a Consultation:

If you’re considering applying for citizenship, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Vanderwall Immigration. Our experienced team has helped numerous individuals successfully navigate the path to citizenship, and we are eager to assist you.

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