If I have a green card, do I need to apply for US citizenship?

While some people are in too much of a hurry to apply for US citizenship, most green card holders have no idea that they qualify for US citizenship or do not know how to go about it.  As a legal resident of the US – permanent or conditional, you already have your green card.  The basic criteria for application for citizenship by a permanent resident is that you must have been resident in the US for no less than 5 years.

Calculating this time is simple.  You are eligible for application for citizenship exactly five years to the day you were issued your residency (green card).  So, if you were granted permanent residency on June 12, 2015, you become eligible for US citizenship on June 12, 2020.  Check for the exact date on the front of your green card to be sure.

Conditional Legal Resident

If you were issued your Green Card based on your marriage to a US citizen or with an investor visa, you need to wait only three years from the date you became a conditional legal resident.

You become eligible for citizenship at the end of three years.  Note that for this to apply you must still be married to the same US citizen.  You will need to provide proof that you qualify along with your application, and will have to stay married to the same spouse all the way to your interview.  Any form of separation (even at the instance of death) nullifies this exception.

The 90-day Early Application Rule

The Form “N-4oo” with which you file for US citizenship can be filed up to three months before your eligibility day – the day of your fifth anniversary.  The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the department charged with handling immigration applications, allows for the submission of your naturalization application 90 days in advance.

This is due to the time it takes to process the N-400 and arrange for you to be fingerprinted, after which you will be invited for your interview.  In all likelihood, it would take longer than 90 days to call you in for your interview, making it a safe application window.

Citizenship Requirements

Beyond being a Green Card holder, applicants must be able to show that they have been in the US for at least 30 months within that five year period. On the other hand, those applying for citizenship based on their marriage must establish that they have spent no less than 18 months in the US within the specified three year window.

Extended absences from the United States will likely break the applicant’s continuous residence.  Indeed, any absence longer than 6 months could negatively impact your eligibility to apply.

Also important is the district in which you are filing your application.  Before filing your N-400 form in any district, be sure to have resided in that district for at least three months.

With your application filed with the necessary filing fee, the USCIS will mail you an application confirmation notice which will notify you of your priority date.  Your fingerprints and biometrics will be requested subsequently, and you can go along with the rest of the process.  Naturalization interviews mostly focus on civics (US government) and English, so do not go unprepared.

Hire a Skilled Immigration Lawyer

Dealing with immigration as a novice can be utterly overwhelming at times.  It is easy to get lost in all of the complicated procedures and regulations.  An experienced immigration attorney can help you through this process. The Law Office of Raphael M. Scheetz will be prepared to represent you, and is always on standby should you have any questions or need any assistance.


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