Citizenship Requirements for Permanent Residents

Citizenship Through Naturalization

Most permanent residents are eligible to apply for citizenship after five years. Spouses of U.S. citizens are eligible sooner, after three years. At that time, Green Card holders can file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, if they meet the USCIS eligibility requirements for citizenship.

Eligibility Requirements for Green Card Holders

To be eligible to apply for citizenship, a permanent resident must satisfy a number of requirements:

  • Age—You must be at least 18 years old.
  • Green CardYou must have held a Green Card for at least five years. If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, that time frame is just three years.
  • Local Residency—You must reside within the USCIS district that will be handling your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, for at least three months prior to filing the application.
  • Continuous Residency—You must have resided in the U.S. continuously for the five years prior to submitting your Form N-400. For spouses of U.S. citizens, that time frame is just three years.
  • Physical Presence In-Country—You must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months during the five-year permanent residency period. Spouses of U.S. citizens must have been physically present for at least 18 months of the three-year period.
  • Post-Application Residency—Once you submit your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, you must reside in the U.S. continuously from the day you submit the form until you are naturalized and actually gain citizenship.
  • Literacy and Civic Knowledge—You must be able to read, write and speak English. You will also have to be able to pass a civics test by demonstrating your knowledge of U.S. history and government.
  • Good Moral Character—You must be able to demonstrate that you are a person who obeys U.S. laws and honors the principles set forth in the U.S. Constitution.
  • Oath of Allegiance—You must be prepared to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.


Common Questions

If one of my parents is a U.S. citizen, do I still have to file a Form N-400 to apply for citizenship?

It depends. If one of your biological or adoptive parents was a U.S. citizen by birth or was naturalized and gained citizenship before you turned 18, you may already be a U.S. citizen through what is termed derived citizenship. If that is the case, you may be able to instead apply for a Certificate of Citizenship by filing Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship.[3,5]

Can I file my Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, early, before the normal five-year or three-year period?

USCIS does allow individuals who are filing under the general requirements to file their N-400 up to 90 days prior to their actual three- or five-year anniversary date. However, USCIS will not recognize that person as being eligible for naturalization until they have reached the actual date completing the three- or five-year period.

What is the filing fee for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization?

The filing fee for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is $725. The fee consists of $640 for the filing itself as well as an $85 biometrics fee.

What documents will I need to submit my Form N-400, Application for Naturalization?

What each person must submit varies by personal situation. Instructions for Form N-400 provide a complete list of the documents you may need to submit with your application as well as the documents you will need to bring to your interview during the naturalization process.