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How do I become a U.S. citizen if I have a green card?

Pennsylvania residents may not realize that one of the most common paths to citizenship in the United States is applying for naturalization after holding a green card. An individual who has had a green card for a minimum of five years may be able to qualify for citizenship if certain additional requirements are met. A Form N-400, also called Application for Naturalization, is used to apply for citizenship.

The additional requirements to begin the naturalization process include being at least 18 years old when applying, residing continuously in the U.S. during the prior five years and being physically present for a minimum of 30 months during that period. Additionally, an applicant for naturalization much be continuously present in the country from the date of application until the desired status is granted. The candidate for naturalization must also reside in the area which has jurisdiction over the case for a minimum of three months in advance of filing an application.

While many requirements relate to residence and location, it is also important for an applicant to recognize that good moral character based on the nation's constitutional principles is required. Applicants are expected to speak, read and write English, and they must demonstrate an understanding of the nation's history and governmental background.

An individual who is contemplating getting ready to apply for naturalization may want to investigate the requirements far in advance of reaching the five-year time requirement to ensure that requirements for physical presence in the country aren't inadvertently missed. It is also possible to begin working on language and history requirements early in the time spent in the country to ensure preparedness upon fulfilling time requirements. An immigration lawyer may be helpful at various stages of the process, providing assistance with applications and supplying information about local resources for language and history studies.

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Path to U.S. Citizenship", September 08, 2014

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