After having your permanent residence (green card) for one, three, or five years, you can apply to become a United States citizen. Permanent residents who are married to United States citizens can apply in three, and almost everyone else can apply in five. Those select few permanent residents who serve in the United States armed forces can apply for citizenship after one year.
Common problems with naturalization include:
- Unpaid taxes;
- Outstanding child support;
- Voting or registering to vote;
- Extended absences from the United States
However, the biggest obstacle to citizenship for most permanent residents is the English requirement. You must speak a sufficient level of English with a government official at an interview to become a citizen. A government official will test your knowledge of United States government and history at an English-speaking interview. Your English does not have to be perfect!
Benefits of Citizenship
Citizenship opens up many new possibilities for family immigration, including the privilege of bringing your parents, spouse, and minor children to the United States immediately. It is the finish line in the immigration process, and can almost never be taken away. It is so much bigger than permanent residence, which is a truly delicate status that is not actually permanent.
To naturalize as a United States citizen is to open up many possibilities in life. Many government-funded occupations (like a police officer, firefighter, or teacher) sometimes require citizenship before considering employment. Citizens have no limit for time spent out of the United States, also. Finally, and most significantly, citizens can file immigration petitions for their children, spouse, and parents that will make immigration to the United States available to them immediately.
It is with a great amount of happiness and exhilaration that I carry my clients from the beginning of the race (not having any immigration status) to the finish line (United States citizenship). Seeing my clients naturalize through my efforts is always an emotional experience for me. Naturalization is the overall goal of every case in my office, and I am so proud to create new Americans.