Eligibility for United States Citizenship
U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship (also called “naturalization”) after a period of either three or five years of permanent residence, if certain conditions are met.
Timing of Eligibility for Filing
Most permanent residents are eligible to file for citizenship after five years of permanent residence. Permanent residents who are married to a U.S. citizen are eligible to apply for citizenship after three years of permanent residence, provided they have been married to their U.S. citizen spouse for the full three years.
An application for citizenship can be filed 90 days prior to reaching the three- or five-year eligibility period. For example, for permanent residents who are not married to a U.S. citizen, 90 days prior to five years from the date of your permanent residence approvals, you will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship, provided that you meet eligibility requirements.
Continuous Residence and Physical Presence Requirements
Among these requirements is that you maintain lawful permanent resident status for the five (5) year period immediately preceding your applications and that you have been physically present in the U.S. for at least two-and-one-half years of the required five-year period; or for at least one-and-one-half years of the required three-year year period, if applicable.
Applicants for U.S. Citizenship must show that they have resided “continuously” in the U.S. for the required period of three or five years as described above. This means:
- The applicant must have spent more than half of their time physically present in the U.S. over the required eligibility period; and
- With limited exceptions, the applicant cannot have made any trips outside the U.S. of more than six months.
Please note, USCIS only counts full days spent in the U.S. towards the physical presence requirement. Days that an applicant departed the U.S. or returned to the U.S. are not counted in this calculation.
These continuous residence requirements continue to be applicable throughout the entire naturalization application process through the date that the applicant is sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
Benefits of U.S. Citizenship
The primary advantages of U.S. citizenship are:
- Unrestricted voting privileges in the U.S.;
- Eligibility for a U.S. passport;
- The right to work for certain government agencies in restricted or high-security positions;
- Avoiding the requirement of renewing your green card every 10 years;
- The ability to sponsor a spouse, parents, and children under the age of 21 as “immediate relatives” for permanent residency in the U.S.;
- Protection from removal (deportation) from the U.S. as a result of certain criminal activity; and
- Access to certain public assistance programs that are available only to citizens.
There may also be certain tax, estate planning, and other financial consequences that may arise from becoming a U.S. citizen. We recommend consulting a tax advisor, financial advisor, or both regarding these potential issues.
The United States allows dual citizenship (dual nationality) with many countries. Not all countries recognize dual citizenship, and applicants for U.S. citizenship may need to surrender their current citizenship at the time they are naturalized. Guidance on dual citizenship can be found on the Department of State’s website.
Please note, U.S. citizens are required to use a U.S. Passport any time they enter or depart the United States.
Citizenship Application Process
For more details on the application process for U.S. Citizenship (Naturalization), including required forms and documents, filing fees, and eligibility requirements, please visit the USCIS website.