Though the U.S. Constitution is meant to provide protection to both citizens and non-citizens, the reality is that only U.S. citizenship can give you full protection under the law.
Some U.S. permanent residents (green card holders) doubt whether to apply for U.S. citizenship. Maybe it’s because the task seems daunting. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t seem urgent. But in the divisive political era that the U.S. is currently experiencing, it’s perhaps more important now than ever before to get on the path to citizenship if it’s available to you.
What Is the U.S. Citizenship Application All About?
Form N-400, Application for Naturalization asks you questions about yourself, your eligibility, your family, your employment and travel history. Along with the form, you have to send copies or original copies of documents that can support the answers you give on the form. Once your Application Package is complete, you can either send it electronically or send it by mail to the correct USCIS location.
Before you start to prepare the form, however, it’s very important to understand that the process of the citizenship application begins by first checking your eligibility for U.S. citizenship.
If you are a green card holder and have been one for at least 5 years, you must meet these basic requirements:
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must have lived in the state where you are applying for U.S. citizenship for at least 3 months before you file your citizenship application.
- You must have continuous residence in the U.S. (which basically means not leaving the U.S. on a trip that lasted longer than 6 months) as a green card holder for at least the 5 years before you file your citizenship application.
- You must have been physically present in (physically inside) the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the 5 years before you file your citizenship application.
- You must be able to read, write and speak English.
- You must understand and know about U.S. history and government (civics).
- You must be a person of good moral character (which basically means not breaking the laws or committing any serious crimes) for at least the 5 years before you file your citizenship application.
- You must continue to live in the U.S. from the moment you file your citizenship application until you finally become naturalized.
Please note that other requirements will apply to people who are married to U.S. citizens, those who are in the military and their family, and those who have U.S. citizen parents. Nevertheless, the vast majority of U.S. citizenship applicants (90% of applicants) will likely be eligible by meeting the requirements above.
How long does the U.S. citizenship process take?
It is estimated that the processing time for a U.S. citizenship application is about 6 months from the moment when your application is accepted by the USCIS.