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Eligibility for naturalization

Pennsylvania residents who are interested in becoming U.S. citizens may wonder if they are eligible for naturalization. Generally, people must have been permanent residents of the U.S. for a certain number of years in order to apply, although that requirement does not apply for certain members of the military.

Those who are applying for naturalization must be at least 18 years old and have been a permanent resident for at least five years. They must additionally not been outside of the U.S. for trips longer than six months during that five years of residence. Those who are married to a U.S. citizen and have been married for at least three years are eligible for naturalization after three years of holding a permanent residence card.

People who are currently in the U.S. Armed Forces and who have served for at least one year may apply, but they must have their permanent resident status on the date of their naturalization interview. Those who served during a designated active period of hostility, including any time since Sept. 11, 2001, are eligible and are not required to first be permanent residents, as long as they enlisted while in the U.S. or one of its territories. U.S. Nationals are also eligible if they have become a resident of any state and they are otherwise qualified.

Naturalization is the means by which a person can become a U.S. citizen. There are several different paths of eligibility and various requirements under each method. Those who are considering becoming naturalized U.S. citizens may benefit by meeting with an immigration and naturalization attorney who can help determine the appropriate basis and submit the naturalization application and all supporting documentation. The attorney can also assist with the preparation for the required English and civics tests.

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "A Guide to Naturalization", accessed on Jan. 28, 2015

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