Diaz Shafer - Person holding a US Flag

How to Go From Legal Permanent Resident (Green Card holder) to U.S. Citizen


How to Go From Legal Permanent Resident (Green Card holder) to U.S. Citizen

It’s time.  You’re ready to stand before the flag and become an American citizen.  You want to become a permanent part of the country you now call home.  

Foreign nationals who want to become U.S. citizens must establish that they have been legal permanent residents (also known as green card holders) and have continuously resided in the United States for 3 to 5 years.  An individual may apply for citizenship (naturalization) in 3 years if they are filing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen, and they have resided and continue to reside with their U.S. citizen spouse for the preceding 3 years, up until the time they are sworn in as citizens.  For all other individuals, they may file for naturalization after five years of legal permanent residency. In both cases, however, an application for naturalization may be submitted 90 days prior to the 3 and 5 year timeframe.  

Additionally, to be eligible for naturalization, you must be at least 18 years of age when you file; be able to read, write and speak English; and be a person of good moral character.

What is the Naturalization Process?

First, you must determine if you are already a U.S. citizen, or if you are eligible to become one.  If eligible, you may prepare and submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, to USCIS. Once filed, USCIS will schedule you for a biometrics appointment, if applicable. Thereafter, you will be scheduled for an interview at your local USCIS office.  Please note: it’s important to be on time for your appointment and bring the appointment notice with you. Tardiness can result in denial, cancellation, or rescheduling of the interview. 

After your interview, you will receive a decision on your Form N-400.  The application may be granted, continued or denied, depending on the results of the interview.  The case will be continued if USCIS needs you to provide more information, or documentation, in order to make a determination on eligibility.  It is important that you comply with the request, as failure to do so will result in a denial. However, please speak to an immigration attorney if you find yourself in this situation, as the evidence you provide to USCIS may be used against you, as well.  Failure to pass the English/civics test is also cause for a continuation of your case, usually resulting in the scheduling of a second interview. Applications will be denied if the evidence in your record establishes you are not eligible for U.S. citizenship.

If your application is granted you will participate in an Oath Ceremony.  You may be scheduled for the ceremony on the day of your interview, however, it is more likely that USCIS will mail you a notification with the date, time and location of your scheduled ceremony. During the ceremony, you will be asked to complete and turn in Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Ceremony.  You will also be asked to turn in your Legal Permanent Resident card (Green Card) on the day of the ceremony. 

During the ceremony, you will take the Oath of Allegiance and receive your Certificate of Naturalization.  It is during this time that your journey to becoming a U.S. citizen will be completed. You will then become part of a diverse fabric and can take pride in the fact that citizenship is the thread that connects all Americans.

The naturalization process can be confusing to someone who has never applied for U.S. citizenship before.  As such, you should rely on an experienced immigration lawyer to help you through this process. 

At Diaz Shafer, P.A., we offer expert assistance with any legal matter involving immigration, including immigration services for individuals, businesses, military personnel, and deportation defense.  We are experienced, multi-lingual, and proven in the courtroom. To learn more, visit www.diazshafer.com.