Path to US Citizenship

This page describes the most common path to U.S. citizenship, which allows a green card holder (permanent resident) of at least 5 years to apply for naturalization. Other paths include:    

  1. Green card holders married to U.S. citizens
  2. Green card holders in the military and their family
  3. Citizenship through parents

Eligibility Requirements

If you are a green card holder of at least 5 years, you must meet the following requirements in order to apply for naturalization:  

  1. Be 18 or older at the time of filing
  2. Be a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  3. Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
  4. Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  5. Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  6. Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
  7. Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
  8. Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law

Continuous Residence and Physical Presence Requirements for Naturalization

Continuous Residence

Applicants are required to show that they have:

  1. Resided continuously in the U.S. for five years before applying, (see legal basis), or
  2. Resided continuously in the U.S. for three years in the case of qualified spouses of U.S. citizens, (see legal basis

“Continuous residence” means that the applicant has maintained residence within the United States for the required period of time shown above.

Extended absences outside of the U.S. may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence.

  1. Absences of more than six months but less than one year may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence unless the applicant can prove otherwise, (see legal basis, see policy manual)
  2. Absences in excess of one year or more may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence, (see legal basis, see policy manual)

Physical Presence

Applicants are required to show that they were:

  1. Physically present in the U.S. for thirty months within the five year period before applying, or (see legal basis)
  2. Physically present in the U.S. for eighteen months within the three year period before applying in the case of qualified spouses of U.S. citizens (see legal basis)

In addition, applicants are required to show they have resided for at least three months immediately preceding the filing of Form N-400 in the USCIS district or state where the applicant claims to have residency (See 8 CFR §316.2(a)(5)&§319.1(a)(5)).

Exceptions

Section 316 paragraphs (b), (c), and (f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act allows for certain exceptions to the continuous residence requirement for those applicants working abroad for:

  1. The United States government, including the Military
  2. Contractors of the United States government
  3. A recognized American institution of research (List of Recognized American Institutions of Research and Other Recognized Organizations)
  4. A public international organization
  5. An organization designated under the International Immunities Act

If you seek to preserve your continuous residence for naturalization purposes while employed abroad by one of these recognized institutions you must file Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes with USCIS.  

An organization may obtain USCIS recognition as an American institution of research for the purpose of preserving the continuous residence status of its employees who are, or will be, naturalization applicants assigned abroad for an extended period of time. The requesting organization should follow the instructions found on the Requesting Recognition as an American Institution of Research page.

Exceptions & Accommodations

There are exceptions and modifications to the naturalization requirements that are available to those who qualify. USCIS also provides accommodations for individuals with disabilities.    
For more information visit our A Guide to Naturalization page and the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

English Language Exemptions

You Are Exempt From The English Language Requirement, But Are Still Required To Take The Civics Test If You Are:

  1. Age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident (green card holder) in the United States for 20 years   (commonly referred to as the “50/20” exception).
    OR
  2. Age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years (commonly referred to as the “55/15” exception).

Note:

  1. Even if you qualify for the “50/20” or “55/15” English language exceptions listed above, you must still take the civics test.
  2. You will be permitted to take the civics test in your native language.
  3. If you take the test in your native language, you must bring an interpreter with you to your interview.
  4. Your interpreter must be fluent in both English and your native language.
  5. If you are age 65 or older and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing for naturalization, you will be given special consideration regarding the civics requirement.

For more information, see the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

Medical Disability Exceptions to English and Civics

You may be eligible for an exception to the English and civics naturalization requirements if you are unable to comply with these requirements because of a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment.

To request this exception, submit Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions. This form must be completed by a licensed medical or osteopathic doctor, or licensed clinical psychologist.
For more information, see the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

Continuous Residence Exceptions

If you are engaged in certain kinds of overseas employment you may be eligible for an exception to the continuous residence requirement. For more information visit our Continuous Residence and Physical Presence Requirements for Naturalization page and the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

Disability Accommodations

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, we provide accommodations or modifications for applicants with physical or mental impairments that make it difficult for them to complete the naturalization process. Applicants are encouraged to list their needs in the space provided on Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
For more information, see the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

Oath of Allegiance

After applying for naturalization and in order to be naturalized, you must take an oath of allegiance in a public ceremony. The law allows for certain modifications to the Oath of Allegiance.  For more information please see section 337 of the Immigration Nationality Act (INA) and 8 CFR 337.1(b) . Also see the USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

We have filed several citizenship cases at the Law Offices of Prashanthi Reddy, PLLC. Even though a Citizenship case can be relatively simple to file, there are issues that can come up that may be unanticipated. We can help you review your case and make sure you qualify and identify any potential problems with eligibility before you file your case.

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