Monday, January 19, 2009

How do I get US citizenship?

In general, you can apply for US citizenship after 5 continuous years as a permanent resident (PR) or 3 years as a PR if you were married to a US citizen for the 3 years.

In addition to being a permanent resident for the prescribed periods, there are very specific residence requirements you must meet before getting citizenship. Generally, you must have been physically present in the US for half of the 5/3 years before applying for citizenship. You must also have resided for at least 3 months in the state where you are filing. Limited exceptions exist to the residence rules, and it is important that you have not done anything to break the period of residence. Please contact your attorney if you’d like specific advice about your situation.

In addition to the residence and physical presence requirements, an applicant for naturalization must show the following:

  • Good moral character
  • Attachment to the principles of the US constitution
  • Willingness to "bear arms" or perform other work on behalf of the US if required
  • Ability to speak, read and write English (unless eligible for a waiver of this requirement)
  • Knowledge of history and government of the US (unless eligible for a waiver)
There are special rules for people serving in the US Armed Forces, who can get a waiver of the usual residence and physical presence requirements, and do not need to pay filing fees. In addition, a person may be able to apply for citizenship before becoming a PR if the application is filed while on active duty, or within 6 months of leaving service. A person who served in the armed forces during hostilities and was honorably discharged or still serves, can also apply for citizenship without being a PR.

Information on naturalization generally is here. Information on naturalization for military personnel is here.

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