Naturalization is the process through which the permanent resident or green card holder is granted US citizenship after fulfilling certain requirements.
Green card holders are eligible for citizenship after a certain time. Although some claim that there is hardly any material difference between being a green card holder and a citizen, the differences are varied and many.
One advantage of citizenship is the ability to vote and hold public office in the United States. Moreover, perhaps the most important distinction is that you might lose your permanent residency if you get into trouble with the law. In some cases, people have even been placed into removal proceedings for arguably trivial infractions. Citizenship, on the other hand, cannot be taken away unless it was acquired fraudulently. Hence, filing for citizenship allows you to better protect your rights.
In addition, citizenship also allows you to petition for more of your family members to immigrate to the US compared to a green card holder.
A person is eligible to apply for citizenship between three and five years, depending on the immigration category. For people married to US citizens, the waiting period is three years. For most other cases, the waiting period to apply for citizenship is five years.
In addition, according to USCIS, you must generally meet the following requirements in order to apply for naturalization:
- Be 18 years of age or older;
- Be a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately before the date of filing the Form N-400;
- Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over your place of residence, for a minimum of 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
- Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of the filing the application
- Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
- Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
- Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
- Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law