How to Apply for Citizenship for Green Card Holders

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The application for citizenship is relatively simple once the eligibility requirements are met. Application for citizenship through naturalization is reserved only for those who have legally resided in the United States for the designated period of time. Aside from the application form, green card holders must also prove their efficiency in the English language and knowledge of how the United States government functions as well as basic American history. The United States does not require the renouncement of previous citizenship to obtain U.S. citizenship.

Qualify for citizenship. For a green card holder to apply for citizenship, they must meet the residency and character standards for citizenship. The residency requirement for citizenship is five consecutive years from the date of green card issuance. For spouses of U.S. citizens, the residency requirement is three consecutive years. During the residency period, you cannot travel outside of the country for periods of one to two years at a time without obtaining both a Reentry Permit (Form I-131 Application for Travel Document) and N-470 Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes. If you do not file both documents during extended absences, your residency streak is broken. Both forms are available from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

During the residency period, the applicant must also prove their moral character by complying with all state and federal laws. Any criminal record is a severe handicap on an application for citizenship.

Download, print and complete USCIS Form N-400 Application for Naturalization from the website of the USCIS.

Submit two identical passport-style photographs with your application. The photographs must be 2 by 2 inches in dimensions, full color, set against a white background. The head must take up between 1 and 1 3/8 inches of the photograph. The head and face must be bare with no exception other than head (not facial) religious attire. Write your name and alien registration number on the back of each photo using a pencil so as not to bleed through.

Include a legible photocopies of the front and back of your permanent residency card (green card) as well as any additional documents applicable to your specific situation such as marriage certificates signaling name change, evidence that you have been living with your spouse (if applying for citizenship through marriage) or copies of police-certificated criminal records. For a complete list of case-specific required documents, refer to the Resources section below for a document check list.

Place application form, photographs, residency card photocopies and any additional copy in an envelope for mailing along with the $675 filing fee. The fee can be sent in the form of check or money order made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Send your application to the correct USCIS filing center based on your state of residence. If you live in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, California, (territory of) Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin or Wyoming, send your application to:

USCIS P.O. Box 21251 Phoenix, AZ 85036

Residents of all other states including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands send your application to:

USCIS P.O. 660060 Dallas, TX 75266

Wait for approval from the USCIS of your Form N-400. Following approval, you will be contacted to schedule a citizenship interview at your nearest USCIS office. At the time of the interview, you will also be required to pass examinations in basic English reading, writing and speaking skills as well as in general U.S. civics. After passing the interview, you must attend a flag and oath swearing ceremony after which you will be presented with your certificate of citizenship.



About the Author

Mallory Ferland has been writing professionally since her start in 2009 as an editorial assistant for Idaho-based Premier Publishing. Her writing and photography have appeared in "Idaho Cuisine" magazine, "Spokane Sizzle" and various online publications. She graduated from Gonzaga University in 2009 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in history and French language and now writes, photographs and teaches English in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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