For Green Card holders in the U.S., the path to becoming a U.S. Citizen is through a process called Naturalization. If you do not have a Green Card yet, please see our Green Card page for information on obtaining one.
To apply for Naturalization, the general requirements for a Green Card holder is that you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be a green card holder with continuous residence in the U.S. for at least 5 years. If married to a U.S. Citizen spouse, it is 3 years
- Have good moral character
- Pass an English and U.S. Civics test
Good Moral Character
There is no set definition for “Good Moral Character.” The government will generally look at the five years before your application to see if you have committed any crimes and ask questions if they suspect any questionable activity. However, some crimes are permanent bars to citizenship and the government can look further back than five years before the application if they choose.
Passing the English and Civics Test
During the Naturalization process, there are tests where you need to able to read, write, and speak basic English (English Test) and have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government (Civics Test). These tests can be a scary prospect, but the most recent statistics show that in May 2015, 91% of applicants passed the test.
There are also exceptions to the English test for those who are 50 years or older and have been Green Card holders for an extended period of time.
Keeping Your Green Card vs. Naturalizing
There are a number of differences between a U.S. Citizen and a Green Card holder, you are:
- Not allowed to vote in the U.S.
- Not allowed to leave the U.S. for long periods of time (or risk losing your Green Card and possibly being refused re-entry to the U.S.)
- Can be deported from the U.S. Read more about deportation
Once you are naturalized and a U.S. Citizen, these do not apply to you anymore and you can enjoy all the rights that U.S. Citizens have.
The cost for the Naturalization application is $680 (filing fee of $595.00 and biometrics fee of $85.00). In the past, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) only accepted cash or checks, but in 2014, President Obama made it so that USCIS now has to accept credit cards.
Contact Los Angeles Immigration Center for More Information
The Naturalization process can be confusing and overwhelming for a lot of people. If you are interested in Naturalization and would like more information or assistance with the process, it is best to contact the Los Angeles Immigration Center to discuss your case.
To schedule a consultation with a Los Angeles Immigration Attorney, please call (310) 933-4455 or fill out our online form with a brief description of your situation.