Lawful permanent residence is required for an applicant who must be over18 and have been a resident for not less than 5 years. If the applicant has been married to s U.S. citizen for not less than 3 years, then over 3 years of permanent residence are required. Although an applicant must be married to a U.S. citizen at the time of the interview, the 3 years rule does not require that the applicant be living with his/her spouse at the time of the interview.
A spouse or child of a U.S. citizen who obtained permanent residence because of extreme cruelty may also qualify for citizenship.
The applicant must have resided for at least 3 months within the State where the petition is filed unless excused because the citizen spouse is employed abroad by the U.S. Government or a participatory international organization, a research institution accredited by the U.S., a religious organization or an American firm engaged in the development of foreign trade or commerce on behalf of the U.S. These categories may also allow an applicant for citizenship to be excused for a one year absence from the U.S. except in the religious category.
Regarding the physical presence rule, one half of the time immediately preceding the application must have been spent in the U.S.: 2 Â½ years for permanent residents not married to U.S. citizens and 18 months for those married 3 years to U.S. citizens.
To qualify for citizenship after the application is filed, the applicant must remain a resident up to the time citizenship is acquired. An applicant may not have been absent from the U.S. for more than one continuous year during the period of required residence unless the applicant served in the U.S. military abroad or received approval to preserve residence or is married to a U.S. citizen working abroad under defined circumstances.
The applicant must show good moral character for the immediately preceding 5 years of the application or 3 years when married to a U.S. citizen.
A conviction for a petit offense will be a bar of good character if the sentence exceeds 6 months. A conviction for murder will always be a bar to citizenship. This bar also applies for an aggravated felony committed after November 29, 1990.
Lack of good moral character will also be a bar:
a. For non support of dependents;
b. For adultery;
c. For knowing failure to register with selective service;
d. For 5 convictions for driving while intoxicated over a period of 10 years immediately preceding the application; or a statutory rape conviction, if attempting to conceal it when questioned.
The potential citizen must affirm attachment to the principles of the U.S. constitution, be willing to bear arms on behalf of the U.S. when required by law or be willing to perform non combatant service in the U.S. armed forces, or do work of national importance.
An elementary level of reading, writing and understanding of English is required as well as the fundamentals of history and government of the U.S. This requirement will not apply for persons over 50 who have lived in the U.S. for over 20 years in permanent residence status or who are over 55 and have lived in the U.S. for over 15 years after getting their permanent residence. For persons over 65, with 20 years of residence, the knowledge questions may be conducted in the applicantâ€™s native language, and only 6 questions out of 25 need be properly answered.
Physically impaired or developmentally disabled or mentally impaired persons may receive a waiver of the English language and history and government tests.
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