Legal Permanent Residents (“LPR”s) in the U.S. can apply for U.S. citizenship provided certain conditions are met. There are issues to take into consideration prior to applying for citizenship, including time spent outside of the U.S., any criminal history while a Legal Permanent Resident, and whether your home country allows for dual citizenship. There is an English and a Civics Test, which most applicants must pass, with several exceptions and a waiver available. Some legal permanent residents are allowed to file for U.S. citizenship, although they are overseas. There are also special provisions for members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Caroline Ostrom, Minneapolis immigration attorney, assists Legal Permanent Residents in the Twin Cities and nationwide to petition for U.S. citizenship. We encourage you to contact us if you need legal advice about eligibility for Naturalization, or the application process.
To apply for U.S. Citizenship, a process called Naturalization, you must generally meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have been a green card holder for 5 years (3 years if married to a U.S. citizen)
- Have been physically present in the U.S. for 30 months in the five years since become a U.S. citizen (18 months within the last three years if married to a U.S. citizen)
- Have resided in the U.S. during the required period. Any trips outside the U.S. that lasted more than six months but less than a year can be found to break the residency period.
- Have had good moral character during the required period
- Pass English and Civics (U.S. history and government) tests
- Have resided in the district where you are applying for citizenship for at least three (3) months
Conditions to Consider Before Applying for U.S. Citizenship
Applying for U.S. Citizenship through Naturalization is a valued step for many Legal Permanent Residents. However, it is important to note that long absences outside of the U.S. may result in the denial of the application, as can seemingly minor criminal offenses, not paying your taxes, and not fulfilling your child support obligations.
Many misdemeanor offenses, which can seem quite minor, can also result in the denial of a citizenship application, for failure to demonstrate good moral character. Other offenses, depending on the type of crime and the timing, can result not just in denial of the citizenship application, but result in removal proceedings and losing Legal Permanent Residence. Accordingly, it is advisable for those who have offenses on their record that occurred after the grant of the green card to discuss applying for citizenship first with a qualified immigration lawyer.
Waiver of the English and/or Civics Test for U.S. Citizenship
Most applicants who apply for U.S. citizenship are required to pass English and Civics (U.S. history and government) tests. USCIS has good testing tools to study for the exam.
There are three main exceptions to the testing requirements:
- If you are 50 or older, and you have been an LPR in the U.S. for 20 years or more, you are exempt from the English requirement (you must still take and pass the Civics test, but in your native language);
- If you are 55 or older, and you have been an LPR in the U.S. for 15 years or more, you are exempt from the English test (you must still take and pass the Civics test, but in your native language);
- If you are 65 or older, and you have been an LPR in the U.S. for 20 years or more, you are exempt from the English test, and you can take a modified version of the Civics test in your native language.
If you do not meet the above criteria, but you have a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment that prevents you from being able successfully complete these tests, you can apply for a waiver of this requirement. Qualifying for the exemption requires the submission of the Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, signed by a licensed medical or osteopathic doctor, or licensed clinical psychologist.
How Our Minneapolis Immigration Lawyer Can Help
Ostrom Law Office enjoys helping existing clients and new clients apply for U.S. citizenship through Naturalization. We determine whether you meet all of the relevant eligibility requirements for citizenship, and whether there are any particular flags that would counsel against filing the application. In addition, we also routinely assist clients with elderly family members to determine if applying for an exemption from the English and Civics test is appropriate, and assist the client through that process.
Based in Minneapolis, our immigration team works with Legal Permanent Residents in the Twin Cities and nationwide to petition for U.S. citizenship. We welcome you to contact Ostrom Law Office for assistance with your immigration matter.