Citizenship FAQs

What are the Requirements for Citizenship for Green Card Holders?

In addition to the timing requirements discussed above, the following requirements pertain to Naturalization Applications:

  • Must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one-half of the five-year (or three-year in the case of Applicants married to U.S. Citizens) qualifying period preceding the application
  • Must not have been absent from the U.S. for a continuous period exceeding one year during the qualifying (five or three years) period
  • Must be person of good moral character for the qualifying five or three-year period. Issues that can lead to a finding that one lacks the required good moral character can include, but are not limited to: certain criminal arrests and/or convictions; delinquent payments for spousal or child support; failure to pay state, local or federal taxes, failure to register for selective service when required, etc.
  • Must be attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States and must be well disposed to the U.S
  • Must pass a U.S. civics knowledge and English language test (requires an elementary level of reading, writing and understanding of English). Applicants who are over 50 years old and have lived in the U.S. as Lawful Permanent Residents for 20 years are exempt from the English language requirement, as are those who are 55 years old and who have lived in the U.S. as Lawful Permanent Residents for 15 years

What are the Benefits of becoming a United States Citizen?

Even after they are eligible for Naturalization, many individuals who attain permanent residence in the United States are content to just have a green card. This is generally a reasonable point of view because, with few exceptions, Green card holders can work in the United States and travel internationally as they please. However, the decision whether to apply for Naturalization should be one which is made with knowledge of the associated benefits that an individual may be foregoing.

First, there are several immigration-related benefits that a Citizen can provide (or more easily provide) to their family members in ways that green card holders cannot. Most substantially is the ability of a U.S. Citizen to petition for permanent residence of their parents, children and spouse without the extremely long visa backlogs which family members of green card holders (particularly those from the Philippines) are subject to. In fact, green card holders cannot petition for their parents, siblings or married sons or daughters at all, whereas U.S. Citizens can. Also, U.S. Citizens, unlike green card holders, have the ability to bestow U.S. Citizenship on a child born outside of the United States.

Also, while green card holders can generally leave and enter the United States with relative ease, they must always be mindful of the length of stay when outside of the country. U.S. Citizens, on the other hand, can reside outside of the country for long periods of time, or even indefinitely without ever needing to worry about losing their ability to permanently return to and work in the U.S. Also, of course, most of us manage to stay out of serious trouble with the law, but deportation and inadmissibility for criminal conduct is another worry which affects green card holders, and generally not U.S. Citizens.

Citizens also have other rights which green card holders do not, including the right to vote, hold political office, serve on a jury, receive certain welfare benefits and certain tax exemptions, and enjoy greater diplomatic protection when abroad. It is also important to many people to feel the pride and connection with their chosen community to be a citizen of the country in which they live.