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When Does One Become Eligible to Apply for Citizenship?

01st April 2011
By Paul Anderson in Immigration Law
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You can become a citizen of the United States either by birth or through naturalization. If you were born in the US, you become a US citizen automatically. You also can claim citizenship if you were born to US citizen parents, depending on meeting certain conditions. The process through which a person not born in the US becomes a citizen voluntarily is called naturalization. To get naturalized, you should file form N-400, Application for Naturalization with the USCIS.

Applying for US Citizenship:

To apply for citizenship, you should file form N 400 with the USCIS. There are some eligibility requirements that you have to meet before you apply for citizenship. You should be a permanent resident (green card holder) of the US for at least five years or three years if you are married to a US citizen and you should be living with the US citizen spouse for the past three years.

There are other requirements too. You should be 18 years old or above. In addition to these, you have to satisfy the continuous residence and physical residence requirement. A prolonged absence from the U.S. will break the continuous residence requirement in the U.S. for naturalization purposes, although it may not affect your return to the U.S. as a permanent resident. Before you apply for citizenship, you should have resided in your current state for at least 3 months. It is the state where you are applying for citizenship.

Absence from the U.S. of less than six months will not break the continuity of residence in the U.S. for citizenship purposes but absence for a period of six months or more breaks the continuity of residence. However, if the break is between six months and one year, it can be excused if a reasonable explanation can be provided for the absence (e.g. overseas employment).

If the break is for over one year, the continuity of residence can be preserved and the break excused, if necessary steps are taken before the expiration of a year abroad to preserve the residence and if the applicant meets certain qualifications. You should also be able to read, write, and speak basic English and have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government (also known as civics). However, some have different English and civics requirements because of their age or disability.

You should not have broken any US immigration laws and should not have been ordered to leave the US. You should also prove at least 5 years of good moral character, immediately preceding your application for naturalization. You should also be prepared to take an oath of allegiance to the United States to become a citizen of the United States.

The submission fee for the citizenship application is $595.00. Additionally, a biometric fee of $85 is required. However, applicants 75 years of age and above are exempted from the bio metric fee. You can pay through one check or money order for $680 for both the submission and biometric fees. If you are filing under the military provisions, you need not pay the filing fee.
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