The first step in applying for citizenship through naturalization is to enter the US and secure a green card in order to establish permanent residency. The next step is to ensure eligibility. The next step is to file Form N-400 (US citizenship application) to commence the naturalization process. You may file Form N-400 if you are over 18 years old, are eligible for naturalization, and have a green card.
To file Form N400, you must submit supporting documentation as well as photos of yourself. If your application is accepted and you complete the naturalization process, you will become a US citizen with all the rights and privileges of citizenship. For example, you will be able to sponsor your family to come to the US and you will be able to vote and hold office.
To file Form N-400, applicants must be at least 18 years of age and must be permanent residents of the US. The applicant must have had a green card for at least the last five years in order to apply for citizenship. Applicants married to a US citizen, however, may apply after having their green card for only three years. If an applicant has served during war with the US armed forces, that applicant will usually not need to establish permanent residency first; there are special eligibility exceptions for US armed forced applicants due to their contributions in the armed forces.
As well, to be eligible to file Form N-400, a green card holder must generally prove that he or she has maintained continuous residence in the US for at least the past five years. This does not necessarily mean being physically in the US. For example, in many cases a permanent resident can live abroad for periods of time but may continue to maintain a primary residence in the US and continue to pay US taxes and may still meet eligibility requirements for US citizenship. However, to be on the safe side, it is wise to file Form I-470 (Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes) before leaving the United States for any extended period of time. This helps ensure that your eligibility to apply for US citizenship is not affected by stays abroad. It is also important to note that applicants who are married to a US citizen have shorter residency requirements: three years.
In addition, there is a physical residency requirement for applicants. That is, to file Form N400, applicants must have been physically in the US for at least half of the required period of residence. For example, if you are a regular applicant and require a residency of five years, you must be physically present in the US for at least two and a half years. If you are married to a US citizen and must establish residency for three years, you must be physically present in the US for at least one and a half years.
Before filing Form N400, the applicant must have a primary residence where they have lived at least three months before filing their application. The N400 application must be filed in the same state where this primary residence is established.
In addition, to become a US citizen, the applicant must be able to write, read, and speak English. The only exception to this is if the applicant has an impairment or disability which prevents them from learning the language. There are other exemptions, as well. If you are more than 50 years old when you file Form N 400 and have lived in the US for at least 20 years as a permanent resident or are over 55 years of old and have lived in the US as a permanent resident for at least 15 years, you do not have to meet the language requirement.
Applicants who wish to become US citizens must show that they have good moral character, have a basic understanding of US civics, and are willing to abide by the U.S. Constitution.
If you have a green card and are at least 18 years old, you may apply for citizenship if:
In addition, in some cases US armed forces members and some spouses of US citizens may apply sooner, without completing the residency requirement.