How do I apply for U.S. citizenship? In most cases, a person who wants to naturalize must first be a permanent resident. By becoming a U.S. citizen, you gain many rights that permanent residents or others do not have, including the right to vote. What are the basic requirements to apply for naturalization? Generally, to be eligible for naturalization you must:

  • Be age 18 or older
  • Be a permanent resident for a certain amount of time (usually 5 years or 3 years, depending on how you obtained status)
  • Be a person of good moral character
  • Have a basic knowledge of U.S. government (this, too, can be excepted due to permanent physical or mental impairment)
  • Have a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English. There are exceptions to this rule for someone who at the time of filing is 55 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 15 years. Or Is 50 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 20 years. Or has a permanent physical or mental impairment that makes the individual unable to fulfill these requirements.

When can I apply for naturalization? You may be able to apply for naturalization if you are at least 18 years of age and have been a permanent resident of the United States for at least 5 years; or for at least 3 years during which time you have been, and continue to be, married to and living in a marriage relationship with your U.S. citizen husband or wife;

  • Have honorable service in the U.S. military. Certain spouses of U.S. citizens and/or members of the military may be able to file for naturalization sooner than noted above.

I am a permanent resident , which relatives may I petition for? A permanent resident of the United States can file a petition for the following relatives:

  • Husband or wife
  • Unmarried child(ren), regardless of age
Note: Only U.S. citizens may petition for married children.

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When you submit your petition, you are required to provide evidence to prove your relationship to the person for whom you are filing. What does the petition do for my relative? Filing an I-130 relative petition and proving a qualifying relationship gives your relative a place in line for a visa number among others waiting to immigrate based on that same kind of relationship from the same country or region. When your relative reaches the head of the line, he or she may be eligible to immigrate. For example: You file an I-130 petition for your husband or wife. When approved, your petition gives him or her a place in the line of people from the same country who are also husbands and wives of permanent residents. Your relative’s place in line will be based on the date you file your petition. Therefore, there is an advantage to filing as soon as possible. While there is no waiting line for most immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, sons and daughters over 21 years old will have a waiting time. So if you naturalize while your relatives are waiting for visas, they may be able to immigrate sooner. What about my relative’s family? In most cases, when your spouse’s place in line is reached, his or her unmarried children under 21 years old can follow to join the relative on the same visa petition. However, if an unmarried child turns 21 years old before reaching the front of the line, you will need to file a new separate petition for each child included on the original petition. Please following instructions and include a copy of the receipt notice for the original petition. What if my unmarried child marries? A petition for an unmarried child will be automatically revoked if he or she marries, since there is no visa category for a married son or daughter of a permanent resident. However, if you become a U.S. citizen before your child marries, you can continue the immigration process by filing a new I-130 visa petition for your child. After I file, how long will it take before my relative can immigrate? For most relatives, the combination of high demand and the limits set by law on how many people can immigrate each year means that they may have to wait several years. When your relative reaches the front of the line, the U.S. Department of State contacts your relative and invites him or her to apply for an immigrant visa.

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