Getting your green card to become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. is an important moment for many immigrants. However, many people who plan on living in the United States indefinitely may want to take a further step and apply for U.S. citizenship. Naturalization can be a proud moment, and it can also provide many practical benefits. For example, you can vote, run for public office, and qualify for certain federal benefits. In addition, you do not have to live in fear of possible deportation if you are arrested or accused of other misconduct.
One of the most common questions our immigration attorney in Orange County hears is: Am I eligible for citizenship? This answer, of course, depends on the details of your situation. However, the following are some general eligibility criteria:
- You are 18 years old or older (minor children under 18 can become citizens if their parent is naturalized)
- You have had your green card for at least five years (or for three years if your spouse is a U.S. citizen)
- You did not leave the U.S. for longer than six months during the past five (or three) years
- You must be able to demonstrate knowledge of English and United States civics
- You must be deemed to have good moral character
- You must show an attachment to the U.S. Constitution
There are some exceptions to the time requirements for having a green card and continuous residency in the U.S., such as for people who are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces for more than a year. To learn about possible exceptions in your case, talk to an experienced Orange County immigration attorney directly.