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When Can I Apply for Citizenship After a Green Card?

Getting a green card is the first step toward becoming a naturalized United States citizen – a goal that many immigrants coming to the United States share. While it is certainly possible to become a United States citizen, there are some rules and regulations that you’ll have to follow and meet in order to obtain your citizenship.

The process to becoming a U.S. citizen can be somewhat complicated for many people. Applying incorrectly probably won’t hurt your chances of actually becoming a United States citizen in time, but it can greatly slow you down – for years, even. Knowing the rules the government uses to determine citizenship eligibility will help to keep you from making costly mistakes.

How to Know if You Qualify for Naturalization

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There are a variety of ways to qualify for naturalization as a United States citizen. Some people are even eligible for naturalization through a variety of different methods. The most common ways to qualify for naturalization include:

  • Having a green card for at least five years. During this five year period, you’ll need to have spent at least 30 months in the United States. The first step toward becoming a United States citizen is to fill out form N-400, the application for naturalization. Make sure you take your time and fill out all of the information correctly and truthfully.

  • Serving in the United States armed forces. All branches of the armed forces qualify, and will likely put you on the fast track to naturalization. In most cases, you’ll need to have served for at least one year, and you must not be dishonorably discharged. Members of the armed forces can apply for naturalization using form M-599.

  • You were born outside of the United States but have been residing in the United States for at least five years under the age of 18. This method is referred to as the “Citizenship Through Parents” program.

  • You have been a permanent resident of the United States for a minimum of three years and are married to a naturalized United States citizen. This program is referred to as the “Naturalization for Spouses of U.S. Citizens” program.

Naturalization Test

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After filling out the appropriate forms, you may be required to take a naturalization test. Naturalization tests generally cover basic U.S. government principles and laws, as well as basic English. For many people, studying for the naturalization test is recommended, many private schools and community colleges offer classes designed specifically for this purpose.

For more information about what information will be covered on the current naturalization test, contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office. The USCIS also offers a self-test online to help you gauge your preparedness.

Are Your Parents Naturalized Citizens?

If you grew up in the United States and were born to parents who obtained their citizenship before you reached the age of 18 years old, you may already be a United States citizen without you even knowing it. While this is fairly rare, it does happen.

Check with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services if one or both of your parents obtained their citizenship before your 18th birthday but you weren’t born in the United States.

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