For foreign nationals who wish to become naturalized citizens of the United States, the process is often long and somewhat challenging, and applicants must meet a variety of requirements to qualify. One of the most complex sets of requirements, and one that makes a great deal of difference in the outcome of your application, relates to your residency.
These residency requirements take into account the duration of time you’ve lived in the U.S., as well as your immigration status — as you must be a lawful permanent resident. In other words, you need to have a green card, which clears you to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis, as long as you do not commit a serious crime. You must be a lawful permanent resident to apply for naturalized citizenship.
Meanwhile, the requirements related to the amount of time you have spent in the U.S. are slightly more complicated. For starters, you have to be able to establish that you’ve held continuous residency in the country for at least five years, and that you’ve been physically present in the country for 30 months during this same time period. A big reason these and other requirements are in place is to ensure that only those individuals who are committed to living in the country are granted citizenship.
Some exceptions possible
There are some exceptions that can help hasten the process of becoming a naturalized citizen. The chief factor when it comes to these exceptions is marriage. For instance, instead of having to live in the U.S. for five years prior to filing your application, married applicants are only required to have lived in the country for three years. Similarly, the requirement for being physically present in the U.S., if you are married, drops to 18 months within the three-year period prior to applying.
Additionally, there are exceptions related to employment that will not affect your meeting the residency requirement, provided you apply ahead of time for the exemption. Working for the U.S. government, some international organizations and companies active in research, trade or commerce overseas may result in your residency requirement being waived, although the physical presence requirement remains in effect.
This is by no means a thorough accounting of every aspect of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. If you are interested in going through this process, it’s important to remember that it takes time and can be discouraging at times. To help ensure you’re taking the proper steps and to get answers to any questions or concerns you may have about the process, it’s a good idea to consult an experienced immigration attorney, who can provide the information and support you need.
BoltNagi is an established and widely respected immigration law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.