When you are born in a foreign country, naturalization is the process you use to become a United States Citizen. There are many requirements to becoming a US citizen, however, many of which are complicated and confusing. To apply for citizenship can depend on your age, your marital status and the length of time you have lived continuously in the United States.
Three Year Application
If you are at least 18 years old, have been married and married to a United States citizen, you may apply for naturalization, or citizenship after you have lived in the United States for three years. You must be been living with the person you married, have been living with them for three years and your spouse must also have been a citizen for at least three years in order to be eligible to apply using a three-year application status. In addition, you must have been a permanent resident of the United States and not left the country for trips of six months or longer.
Permanent Resident Status
You are considered a permanent resident if you were issued a “permanent resident card,” more commonly known as a green card or Alien Registration Card.
In order to apply for citizenship after three years, your permanent resident card must have been valid for the entire three years before you apply for citizenship.
You must also prove that you had continuous residence in the United States during those three years. This means that you could not have been outside the country for more than six months.
If you have left the country for more than six months during the three-year period, you may have disrupted your continuous residence and may need to wait before applying for citizenship.
This may not be applicable if you are married to a member of the Armed Forces or are a member of the military yourself.
In addition to the three-year requirement to live in the United States, you also must have lived in your district or state for at least three months before you apply for citizenship. A district is a geographical area covered by one of the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) District Offices.
In addition to being married to a United States citizen, and have permanent and district residence status, you must also be of “good moral character” and meet any other requirements set by the USCIS. Some of the factors that USCIS may consider in determining “good moral character” include:
- Criminal history
- False statements on application or in your interview
- Failure to pay child support or alimony
You must also demonstrate an understanding of English as well as the fundamentals of the history, principles and form of government in the United States. Your marriage must be legal and valid. You are responsible for providing proof that your marriage is valid under the laws of the jurisdiction where it is performed. There are some types of relationships that may be recognized by others as marriage but are not recognized by USCIS. These may include:
- Polygamous marriage
- Marriage that violates the public policy of your state
- Civil union or domestic partnership
- Proxy marriage
- Marriage entered into solely to evade immigration laws
A Supreme Court ruling in 2013 determined that same-sex marriages could be considered legal under immigration laws as long as the state where the marriage took place recognizes same-sex marriage.