Residency Requirement and Exceptions Explained
The aim of the following piece is to guide the reader through the intricacies of the naturalization requirements for green card holders and the exceptions and modifications to those who qualify for the same.
The following are the requirements for acquiring a U.S citizenship:-
- Minimum age: To apply for naturalization one must have reached the age of eighteen years unless one is applying based on any period of wartime military service. In the latter case, one may be of any age.
- Demonstrating continuous physical presence: One must reside in the United States as a green card holder for at least five years or three years in case one is married to a U.S citizen. Here the term “continuously” implies that one did not take any trips outside the United States lasting for a duration longer than the 3-5 years one is required for a green card. One also has to take into account the extra period during which the USCIS processes your U.S. citizenship application. To sum up, one is allowed to leave the United States provided one returns within 6 months.
- Residency: To satisfy the residency requirement, one must have been a resident of the state or USCIS district for which citizenship is sought for at least 3 months before applying for naturalization. If you move after filing the Application for Naturalization (Form N-400), the USCIS must be notified of the new address within 10 days of relocating to the new home.
- Good moral character: As per USCIS, the character must be up to the standard of the average citizens. More specifically, it implies that one shouldn’t have committed certain types of crimes such as illegal gambling, murder, or defrauding the U.S. government for immigration purposes. This is applicable for the period that begins 3 or 5 years before you apply for naturalization and ends once the Oath of Allegiance has been administered. Also, one should not have lied to the USCIS officer during the Naturalization interview.
- English proficiency & civics knowledge: One needs to clear a two-section naturalization test. An English language test designed to test one's reading, writing, and speaking skills. The other section is curated to test one's command over the understanding of U.S. history and government.
- Military and Civil Service Registration: A male applicant must be willing to serve in the U.S. military or perform civil service if ever called upon to do so. One needs to register with the Selective Service System for the same. Males between the age of 18-26 are required to register for the service system.
- Allegiance to the United States: One must demonstrate one's belief, support and defend the principles of the U.S. Constitution by accepting the democratic process and promising to obey the law. To complete the Naturalization process, one is required to recite the Oath of Allegiance publicly.
Residency Requirement Exceptions and Accommodations
English Language exemptions: One is exempt from the English Language Requirement but still has to appear for the Civics Test if one is,
- Age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and been a green card holder for 20 years (the 50/20 exception).
- Age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and been a permanent resident of the United States for 15 years (the 55/15 exception)
Medical disability exceptions to English and Civics: If one is unable to comply with the above requirements because of a physical or developmental disability or mental repairmen, one can file for an exemption by filling form N-400.
Other exceptions include continuous residence exceptions and disability accommodations.
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