Before you begin the U.S. citizenship application, we want to make sure you’re ready. The citizenship application is your gateway to numerous benefits. Prepared correctly, you’ll never have to file a USCIS application again! At the end of this article, we offer a downloadable U.S. citizenship application checklist.
The U.S. citizenship application and 11 pages of instructions can be downloaded from USCIS and completed on your own. CitizenPath is a low-cost service that provides self-help for the citizenship application. The online application process gives you step-by-step instructions and alerts if there’s a problem. We help you through all the questions and let you know if an attorney is necessary. There’s no sign up or credit card required to try it now.
The vast majority of people that file the U.S. citizenship application file as a 5-year permanent resident. In other words, it’s been 5 years since the “resident since” date on your green card. (You may actually file your citizenship application up to 90 days before the 5-year anniversary.) However, some candidates file the citizenship application as 3-year permanent residents married to a U.S. citizen or file as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. In fact, there are some more obscure ways of obtaining citizenship through naturalization. You can learn more in the USCIS Guide to Naturalization.
Continuous residence means that you have lived within the United States as a permanent resident for a specified period of time before filing the citizenship application. As mentioned above, the continuous residence requirement is 5 years, or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen. Continuous residence is waived if you are applying on the basis of your service in the U.S. armed forces. Any single trip outside the United States of 6 months or longer can disrupt your continuous residence. This is not a cumulative requirement. For example, seven separate 1-month long trips generally will not disrupt the continuous residence requirement. Learn more about continuous residence.
Tip: If you’ve traveled abroad for periods of six months or more, contact an immigration attorney before filing your U.S. citizenship application.
Physical presence refers to the length of time you must be physically present in the United States during your time as a permanent resident. If applying as a 5-year permanent resident, you must be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of the citizenship application. If applying as a 3-year permanent resident married to a U.S. citizen, only 18 months of physical presence are required. Physical presence is a cumulative requirement. Therefore, you must combine the number of days of all your trips outside the U.S. As with continuous residence, physical presence is waived if you are applying on the basis of your service in the U.S. Learn more about physical presence.
Tip: If you have made any trips abroad (during the previous 5 or 3 years depending on your eligibility category), gather all of your records. You will need to know the dates that you departed/returned for each trip.
Good Moral Character
Before approving your U.S. citizenship application, USCIS will determine if you have good moral character. Many people mistakenly assume this only includes arrests. USCIS will may deny your citizenship application if they feel you are involved with illegal gambling, prostitution or consume illegal drugs. Any failure to pay alimony or child support payments will be reviewed. And of course, USCIS will also review your case to ensure the truthfulness of statements used to gain previous immigration benefits.
Tip: If you believe that you may have some issues in your past that could make USCIS question your moral character, it is best to have a quick conversation with an immigration attorney before filing the citizenship application.
Spouses and Children
The U.S. citizenship application will ask you to provide detailed information on all current and previous spouses as well as children. For spouses, this will include current address, birth dates, marriage/divorce dates and immigration status. For children, the citizenship application requires information about address, birth date and A-number (if applicable).
Tip: You will need to list all children, even if they are married, missing, deceased or living in another country. If you have more than four children, we offer a template so that you can attach additional records to your citizenship application.
You will be asked to provide your Selective Service Number and the date you registered if you are a male who lived in the United States any time between your 18th and 26th birthdays. If you are a female candidate, this requirement does not apply to you. Take the time to understand how failing to register for Selective Service can create a problem.
Jobs and School Information
Be prepared to provide information about all the schools you’ve attended and/or jobs you’ve worked over the past 5 years (3 years if applying as married to a U.S. citizen).
Tip: The citizenship application provides space for only three jobs andschools. If you have more, we offer a template so that you can attach additional records to your citizenship application.
Designed by attorneys, CitizenPath is the online service that makes immigration forms simple. The website provides simple, step-by-step guidance through USCIS applications and petitions. The low-cost service helps to simplify the process by explaining each question and providing alerts if your answer to a question could be a problem. Most people do not need a lawyer to prepare USCIS forms, but many need a little assistance. That’s where CitizenPath can help. CitizenPath provides support for the Citizenship Application (Form N-400), Green Card Renewal (Form I-90), and several other popular forms.