Many Legal Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) eventually become U.S. Citizens. They do so through the process of Naturalization. To be certain, there is no obligation to file for Naturalization (many Green Card holders choose to remain so for decades, never becoming U.S. citizens), but there are certain very important advantages of doing so. First, Green Card status can be lost in a number of ways, some of which including long absences from the U.S., are very common and can not be avoided. Citizenship can not be lost in this way. Second, U.S. citizens benefit from being able to sponsor a wider group of family members for permanent residence. This includes parents and spouses. Those relatives who fit into the “immediate relative category” do not have to wait a their priority date, unlike those who are being sponsored by Green Card holders.
In order to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization, Green Card holder must:
- Be 18 years of age or older;
- Be a resident for five (5) years subsequent to obtaining Green Card. Note: those who married U.S. citizens and obtained Green Card through marriage may be eligible for Naturalization after three (3) years after obtaining Green Card, if certain conditions are met;
- Be physically present in the U.S. for at least one-half of the requisite five (5) (or three (3) year period, if spouse of U.S. citizen);
- Have resided continuously in the U.S. from date of application for Naturalization until admission to citizenship;
- Not be absent from the U.S. for a continuous period of more than one (1) year during the periods for which continuous residence is required (certain exemptions apply);
- Be a person of good moral character;
- Not be barred as a subversive, member of the communist party, deserter, person in removal proceedings, person who applied for and received relief from Selective Service system based on alienage;
- Demonstrate elementary level of reading, writing, and understanding of the English language (certain exemptions apply due to age or medical conditions which affect cognitive functions);
- Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history and government of the U.S. (certain exemptions apply).