If you are a permanent resident, you will be eligible to apply for citizenship if you meet these requirements:
- you have had lawful permanent resident status for at least five years (there are multiple exceptions to this rule and you should consult an attorney to see if you fall under one of the exceptions),
- you have lived in the U.S. continuously for the five years preceding your application, and during that you have not spent more than one continuous year outside the U.S.
- you have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the five years before filing your application,
- you have lived in the district or state where you are filing your application for at least three months,
- you are at least 18 years of age,
- you are able to show that you have good moral character,
- you are able to speak, read, and write in English (there are waivers for this requirement, please consult an immigration attorney to see if you qualify for a waiver of the English requirement),
- you are able to pass a short civics exam covering basic U.S. government and history questions (there is a waiver for the civics exam, an attorney can help you apply for the waiver if you are unable to complete the exam), and
- you are willing to swear that you uphold the principles of the U.S. Constitution
If you are a conditional resident for 2 years, you will have to apply to remove the conditions on your residence. For a more detailed explanation on that service, please visit the Removal of Conditions on Residence page under Practice Areas. If you remove the conditions on your residence, those 2 years will count toward the time you need to be a permanent resident before applying for citizenship. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you only need to wait 3 years after receiving your green card to apply for citizenship, including the time that you were a conditional resident. We are often asked why someone should apply for citizenship and not just stay a permanent resident indefinitely. Here are just some of the many benefits of a citizen that a permanent resident cannot enjoy:
- the right to vote
- the right to obtain certain jobs
- security from any future anti-immigrant laws
- security from possible removal / deportation in the future
- the right to live outside the U.S. without losing status in the U.S.
- special rights and protections when traveling outside the U.S., especially for longer than 6 months at a time
- an unquestioned right to return to the United States
- the ability to bring other family members to the United States (faster than you could as a permanent resident) or to pass citizenship to your children, and
- the right to apply for public benefits.
There are possibilities for early application and you should consult with an experienced lawyer to see if you qualify for one of them or any of the exceptions to any of the requirements.