The United States allows individuals to become citizens in two ways: by birth or naturalization. The most common citizen path allows an individual, who has a green card for at least five years, to apply for citizenship. Other ways an individual can become a citizen include:
- Marrying a U.S. citizen
- Serving in the U.S. military
- Having parents who are U.S. citizens
Are There Any Other Requirements to Becoming a U.S. Citizen?
After meeting the five-year green card holder requirement, an individual must meet other requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing
- Live in the U.S. for at least three months prior to applying
- Reside in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the five years that they have been a green card holder
- Remain in the U.S. continuously during the application process
- Possess good moral character
What Is the Application I Need to Start the Naturalization Process?
The application that you need is Form N-400, the application for naturalization. You can obtain it from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After filing your application, you will need to wait a couple months before you hear back from the USCIS. After the waiting period, you will be called in for a fingerprint appointment and then you will be schedule for an interview.
At the interview, a USCIS officer will test your English language ability and your knowledge of U.S. history and government. If the interview goes well, you will receive an appointment to be sworn-in. Once sworn in, you will then officially be a U.S. citizen and receive a certification of naturalization.
How Can I Become a U.S. Citizen If I Marry an American Citizen?
To become a U.S. citizen by marriage, an individual first must obtain a fiancé visa or permanent visa. The fiancé visa allows the non-citizen to enter the country to get married. If the individual has already married a U.S. citizen and wants to become a citizen, they can apply for a conditional visa. Regardless of which route you take to become a citizen via marriage, the marriage must be legal according to US laws. Spouses that have obtained green cards through marriage do not have to wait the five years to apply for U.S citizenship.
If they stay married with the U.S. citizen the whole time, they can apply to become a citizen after three years of having the green card. The spouse must also need to meet other requirements, such as having good moral character, having spent the majority of the three years living in the United States, being able to speak, read, and write English, and passing a U.S. civics test. If you marry a U.S citizen, you will not be eligible for U.S. citizenship right away. You may become eligible for a U.S green card that will then lead to becoming a U.S. citizen.
Can I Become a Citizen via a Family Member?
Yes. A U.S. citizen can petition for a foreign-born relative to come to the United States via a Family-Based Immigration Visa. This visa has two categories:
- Immediate relative
- Family preference
There is a difference in the waiting period between the two categories. The waiting period to apply for an immediate family member visa is six months to one year, and the waiting period for preference family member visas is up to two years.
Should I Contact a Lawyer about the Path to Citizenship?
If you or a family member wants to become a U.S. citizen, contact an immigration lawyer to understand the process.