- When I receive my green card, am I a citizen?
- How long do I have to wait to apply for citizenship?
- What are the steps to becoming a citizen once I have my green card?
- What could stop me from getting my citizenship?
So you’ve received your green card, and it seems like a huge relief, but your journey towards becoming a US citizen is far from over. Many people mistakenly think that getting their green card is the end goal.
Just what are the steps to getting your citizenship after you get your green card, and how long does it take?
When I receive my green card, am I a citizen?
NO. When you get a green card you are on the road to becoming a citizen, but you are still considered a permanent resident. That means that if you leave the US, you still have to take your passport from your original country, as well as your green card, in order to be able to get back into the US.
Permanent residence is different from Naturalization or Citizenship.
How long do I have to wait to apply for citizenship?
- All green card holders can apply for citizenship, or naturalization, after 5 years ( less 90 days).
- In certain marriage-based residency cases you can apply for citizenship after only 3 years. A key condition for applying under the three-year rule versus the five-year rule is that you must have been “living in marital union,” meaning you have to have been living together with your U.S. spouse for at least 3 years before filing for naturalization.
For more on Marriage Based Green Cards please click here.
For more on same-sex marriage immigration click here.
What are the steps to becoming a citizen once I have my green card?
After getting your green card, and becoming a lawful permanent resident, the steps to getting your citizenship are:
- You need to have had a green card for the minimum period of time in your category as listed above.
- You have maintained 3-5 years of continuous residency in the US during the time you’ve held your green card. If you leave the country for an extended period of time, or need a re-entry permit, this issue must be studied carefully before considering applying.
- For $725, Immigration will process Form N-400 application for citizenship.
- You study the questions on English and Civics, take the test and if you pass, take the oath.
- YOU MUST HAVE GOOD MORAL CHARACTER – arrests, crimes, as well as any taxes and/or child support owed may impede Naturalization [see below].
- IMPORTANT: You may already be a U.S. citizen and not need to apply for naturalization if your biological or adoptive parent(s) became a U.S. citizen before you reached the age of 18. BUT this area is very complex; talk to the best immigration lawyer to analyze your case
What could stop me from getting my citizenship?
- Certain applicants for citizenship will be denied if Immigration determines that they derive naturalization through a parent, automatically. However, this analysis is very complex. I have seen a number of cases in which an N-400 was denied because the officer decided that the applicant was a derivative citizen. Then when the same person tries to file a different form to prove she derived automatic citizenship, the answer is equally frustrating. Bottom line: if you have been a green card holder before age 18 AND your parent naturalized before your 18th birthday, you may be denied on your N-400 application. Consult with the best immigration lawyer you can find to figure this issue out.
- Arrests can result in denial. That’s right. Many people know that crimes can prevent them from becoming a naturalized citizen. They even may know that crimes can result in detention and deportation, even if they have had a green card for many years. But arrests evidence a lack of good moral character. You need to review your records.
- Failure to pay income taxes or child support may form a basis for denial of citizenship. Basic delinquency in financial obligations causes problems in naturalization cases. Denials will be issued if you are not up to date on payments of taxes or child support. Now you may need a great accountant and a top immigration attorney.
- Selective Service Registration for males between 18 and 26 with green cards is a requirement for Naturalization. Many applicants forget to register. Then they face citizenship denials. They can fix this after age 31, but it certainly presents a serious problem.
- Expired Green Card? Don’t Panic. Here’s What To Do.