Becoming a U.S. citizen is the dream of many immigrants. The process to do so is long and complicated. For those who have status as a lawful permanent resident (LPR), part of the battle is already complete. The question then becomes, what is required to take the final step and attain citizenship?
Time requirements for citizenship
In order to make your initial application for citizenship, you must be at least 18 years old. You must have held your status as an LPR for at least five years. There are also requirements for continuous residence and physical presence which have to be met – these two concepts are related but must be met independently.
Continuous residence generally refers to where an LPR actually lives; their home address. You must maintain continuous residence in the U.S. for five years prior to submitting your application. Physical presence refers to the amount of time you are actually in the U.S. For the five years preceding your application, you must have been physically present for at least 30 months.
Finally, you have to be able to show that you lived in the state where you are applying for citizenship for at least three months prior to applying.
Additional citizenship requirements
Assuming an LPR meets all of the time requirements, there are a couple of more hurdles they need to clear. They must be able to show they are a person of good moral character – generally, this refers the commission of certain crimes. Traffic offenses and trivial misdemeanors usually don’t disqualify an applicant, but there are many offenses that will. Examples include crimes of violence, narcotics offenses or any conviction resulting in confinement of 180 days or more.
An LPR must also be able to demonstrate the ability to read, write and speak basic English, and show a sufficient understanding of U.S. History and government. This is done by passing tests designed to illustrate the applicant’s skills. It’s important to note, however, that if you are applying for citizenship and are over the age of 50, there are circumstances under which you may not have to go through all of the testing required for a younger applicant.