citizenship requirements

Citizenship Requirements for 5-Year Permanent Resident

U.S. Citizenship Requirements for 5-Year Permanent Resident

As a permanent resident, you are generally eligible for naturalization after five years. This is the most common way that people apply to become a U.S. citizen.

To qualify, you must have lived in the U.S. continuously for the five years immediately preceding the date you file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The Immigration and Nationality Act (Title III, Chapter 2) details all of the citizenship requirements for a 5-year permanent resident. We break it down in simple terms here.

Citizenship Requirements for 5-Year Permanent Resident

As a permanent resident, you are generally eligible for naturalization after five years. This is the most common way that people apply to become a U.S. citizen.

To qualify, you must have lived in the U.S. continuously for the five years immediately preceding the date you file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The Immigration and Nationality Act (Title III, Chapter 2) details all of the citizenship requirements for a 5-year permanent resident. We break it down in simple terms here.

An applicant for naturalization must meet the following citizenship requirements:
To apply under this eligibility category, the applicant must be 18 years of age or older.
You must have your permanent resident status for at least 5 years before filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Your time as a permanent resident begins the day you were granted permanent resident status. You can find the date on your green card next to “Resident Since.”

But the rules do allow you to file your Form N-400 application up to 90 days before the 5-year anniversary. So a person who has been a permanent resident since 1/1/2010 would meet this requirement on 10/3/2014.

You must have lived within the state (or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence) for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing N-400, Application for Naturalization.

So if you have recently moved to a new state, you must wait 3 months before filing Form N-400.

Continuous residence means that the applicant has maintained residence within the United States for a specified period of time. The continuous residence requirement helps you demonstrate that you have begun to integrate with American community and intend to stay in the U.S. Therefore, you must have continuous residence in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing N-400, Application for Naturalization.

You may take trips abroad but must maintain ties to the U.S. For example, during your trip abroad you continue to file taxes, maintain a residence, and intend to return to the U.S. Have you taken any trips abroad that lasted 6 months or longer? If so, you may have disrupted your continuous residence. Please contact an immigration attorney before filing.

You must also reside continuously within the United States from the date of filing the application until the time naturalization is finalized. Again, you may take a trip abroad during the naturalization process, but you cannot relocate your home.

If you are engaged in certain kinds of overseas employment — such as working for the U.S. government or U.S. Armed Forces — you may be eligible for an exception to the continuous residence requirement. For more information visit our Continuous Residence and Physical Presence Requirements for Naturalization page.

Physical presence refers to the number of days the applicant must be physically present in the United States during the statutory period up to the date of filing for naturalization. USCIS wants to know that you genuinely want to become a citizen. Like continuous residence, the physical presence requirement helps you demonstrate that you have begun to integrate with American community and intend to stay in the U.S. Therefore, you must be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing N-400, Application for Naturalization.

Physical presence is a cumulative requirement. Therefore, you must combine the number of days of all your trips outside the U.S. If you are engaged in certain kinds of overseas employment — such as working for the U.S. government or U.S. Armed Forces — you may be eligible for an exception to the physical presence requirement. For more information visit our Continuous Residence and Physical Presence Requirements for Naturalization.

You must be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (also known as civics). CitizenPath can show you How to Prepare for the U.S. Citizenship Test & Interview.

USCIS does provide some English language exceptions and medical disability exceptions for those who qualify. You are not required to take the English language test if:

  • At the time of filing your Form N-400, you are 50 years of age or older and have lived in the United States as a permanent resident for periods totaling at least 20 years. You do not have to take the English language test, but you do have to take the civics test in the language of your choice.
  • At the time of filing your Form N-400, you are 55 years of age or older and have lived in the United States as a permanent resident for periods totaling at least 15 years. You do not have to take the English language test, but you do have to take the civics test in the language of your choice.
  • At the time of filing your Form N-400, you are 65 years of age or older and have lived in the United States as a permanent resident for periods totaling at least 20 years. You do not have to take the English language test, but you do have to take a simplified version of the civics test in the language of your choice.

USCIS also provides accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Learn more on the USCIS Exceptions & Accommodations page.

Everybody makes mistakes; you aren’t expected to be perfect. The United States wants new citizens to be 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. Examples of things that might demonstrate a lack of good moral character include but aren’t limited to:
  • Any crime against a person with intent to harm
  • Any crime against property or the Government that involves “fraud” or evil intent
  • Two or more crimes for which the aggregate sentence was 5 years or more
  • Violating any controlled substance law of the United States, any State, or any foreign country
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Illegal gambling
  • Prostitution
  • Polygamy (marriage to more than one person at the same time)
  • Lying to gain immigration benefits
  • Failing to pay court-ordered child support or alimony payments
  • Confinement in jail, prison, or similar institution for which the total confinement was 180 days or more during the past 5 years
  • Failing to complete any probation, parole, or suspended sentence before you apply for naturalization
  • Terrorist acts
  • Persecution of anyone because of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group

If you are concerned that your moral character may be in question due to even a minor incident, you should consult an immigration attorney before filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

Married to a U.S. Citizen

If you’re a permanent resident that’s married to a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible to naturalize after just three years.

Learn More

U.S. Armed Forces

If you’ve served at least one year in the U.S. Armed Forces, you may be eligible to naturalize now.

Learn More

Form N400, Application for Naturalization


CitizenPath is the leading online service for helping you prepare USCIS Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Our self-help software will guide you through the application with simple instructions and check it for common mistakes.

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For people with straight-forward cases (no arrests and immigration violations), filing an N-400 can be done without a lawyer. Yet, each year, USCIS rejects or denies thousands of applications.

us citizenship requirements
each year an average of
0,667
N-400 forms are filed*

out of these
0,333
N-400 Forms are rejected*

and another
0,852
get denied*

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