US Permanent Residents (“green card” holders) are eligible to apply for US Citizenship five years after obtaining permanent resident status (or only three years if the green card holder is married to a US Citizen, and the foreign national is married to the same US Citizen for the three year period).
Obtaining US citizenship, through a process called naturalization, grants the individual all of the same protections as every other US citizen, whether born in the United States or born outside the United States to US citizen parents with only one exception: he/she cannot be the President of the United States. The general requirements for a green card holder to qualify for US Citizenship include:
- Can apply three months before the three or five year anniversary.
- Must be at least 18 years old.
- Must be a person of “good moral character,” any criminal violations can cause significant problems for persons seeking US citizenship.
- Must have resided in the United States for the entire three or five-year period, as applicable. Moreover, the green card holder must not have spent 180 continuous days, or more, out of the United States at any one time, during the qualifying three or five years.
- Must have been physically present in the United States for two and one-half years out of the last five years, or one and one-half years out of the last three years if married to a US Citizen as described above.
- Must have resided in the same immigration “district” for the past three months.
- Must reside continuously in the United States from the time of application until citizenship is granted.