IN this week’s column, we will discuss the most common path to United States citizenship. This path allows a green card holder (lawful permanent resident) of at least five years to apply for naturalization. The general requirements are that you must:

• Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing

• Be a permanent resident for the US for 5 years (or 3 years if married to a US citizen)

• Demonstrate physical presence within the US for a required period of time (typically 2.5 out of last 5 years total have to be in the US)

• Demonstrate continuous residence within the US for a required period of time (generally no trips outside the US for more than 6 months)

• Demonstrate good moral character

• Supports the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution

• Demonstrate basic knowledge of U.S. history and government (“civics”) and ability to read, write, speak and understand basic English (certain waivers are available depending on age and length one has had their green card, or applicable mental impairment)

• Take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States (certain waivers are available if the applicant cannot comprehend an understanding of the oath for religious or mental reasons)

Even if you believe that you meet these requirements, it is important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney before you file your application. Some of the requirements are not straightforward, especially if you have had any negative immigration or criminal history. For instance, “good moral character” is a term of art in immigration law, and an immigration attorney may need to analyze your specific circumstances to confirm that you meet this requirement.

Once you confirm your eligibility, you can download Form N-400, Application for Naturalization on the USCIS website. For low-income earners, there is a full or partial fee waiver available depending on your income. If you need assistance, Advancing Justice – L.A. hosts free citizenship application workshops where our staff and volunteers help verify your eligibility for citizenship, complete your citizenship application and prepare your fee waiver request if you cannot afford the filing fee.

Keep in mind that the information above is not a substitute for legal advice. For advice about your individual situation, you should consult with an experienced, trustworthy immigration attorney or DOJ accredited representative. If you have questions about your eligibility for citizenship and need legal assistance, please contact Advancing Justice – L.A’s Tagalog helpline at (855) 300-2552. 

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Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA) is the nation’s largest legal and civil rights organization for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (NHPI). Founded in 1983 as the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Advancing Justice – LA serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations every year.  Through direct services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building, Advancing Justice – LA focuses on the most vulnerable members of Asian American and NHPI communities while also building a strong voice for civil rights and social justice. For more information, please visit 

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