Becoming a U.S. Citizen

In this article, we will explain what naturalization is and we will talk about eligibility to become a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Definition of Naturalization

Naturalization refers to the series of steps an immigrant must take to become a US Citizen. Not all immigrants are eligible, that is, not all immigrants have the possibility of becoming a US citizen.

Who is eligible to become naturalized citizens of the United States?

To be eligible to become a naturalized citizen of the US, it is usually necessary to have been a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) or Green Card Holder, physically present in the United States or meet certain requirements that are related to the military service.

1. Green Card Holders

Being a Green Card Holder is one of the requirements for the vast majority of groups of individuals who are eligible to become naturalized citizens of the US. However, not all Green Card Holders are in the same situation, so rules apply differently in each case:

I. Green Card Holders without special circumstances.

Most Green Card Holders come into this group. As indicated in the subheading, there is no circumstance for which these people should have a treatment from the general rule, which is the following: They must wait for a minimum of five years after having obtained their Green Card and having lived within the United States for at least 30 months out of the mentioned five-year period to be able to apply for US citizenship.

II. Green card holders who have special circumstances.

Also, as it appears from this subheading, in this category are those individuals who have a Green Card and also have a special circumstance for which the Immigration Laws give a different treatment to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Such is the case of the following individuals:

a. Green Card Holders who have been married to an American Citizen for a minimum of 3 years and lived with them during all that time

These people must wait for at least three years after obtaining their Green Card to apply for US citizenship and have lived in the United States for at least 18 months, within the stated three-year period.

b. Green Card Holders who served in the US military

One of the many benefits of being a military member in the United States is that they have shorter waiting periods to become naturalized citizens of the United States. Within this subcategory there are two groups

i. Green Card Holders who served in the US military for a minimum of 1 year during peacetime

These people have no need to wait for any period or have lived in the United States to become naturalized citizens of the United States. In effect, they can apply to obtain their American Citizenship while they are active military or within six months of having separated honorably from the military.

i. I. Green Card Holders who also served in the US military for a minimum of 1 year during peacetime but apply for citizenship after 6 months of separating honorably from the military

These people must apply for citizenship after five years of receiving their Green Card and having lived in the United States for at least 30 months within the stated period of five years. However, the time of honorable service rendered in the US military may be included within this period.

ii. Green Card Holders who served in the US military for less than 1 year during peacetime

The same rules apply as for the previous case: these individuals apply for citizenship after five years of receiving their Green Card and having lived in the United States for at least 30 months within the stated period of five years. However, the time of honorable service rendered in the US military may be included within this period.

c. Widow(er) of a US citizen who past during their service in the United States Military

These people are included within the group of Green Card Holders because although they may apply at any time to become a naturalized citizen of the United States (they must not wait for any period or have lived physically in the United States), they must have a Green Card at the time of your citizenship interview.

2. Single naturalization case in which it is not necessary to have a Green Card: Military members with any period of wartime service

If you are a member of the US Military with any period of wartime service, whether or not you have a Green Card, you can apply to become a naturalized citizen of the United States at any time. The only requirement, in this case, is to have been physically present in the US territory when you were linked to the U.S. military (inducted, enlisted, re-enlisted or extended your service).

Below is a table in which we summarize everything explained to facilitate its understanding :

Eligible people to become naturalized citizens of the United States GREEN CARD HOLDERS GREEN CARD HOLDERS WITHOUT SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES They must wait a minimum of five years after having obtained their Green Card and have lived within the United States for at least 30 months out of the mentioned Five-year period in order to apply for US citizenship.
GREEN CARD HOLDERS WHO HAVE SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES Green Card Holders who have been married to an American Citizen for a minimum of 3 years and lived with them during all that time These individuals must wait for at least three years after obtaining their Green Card and have lived in the United States at least 18 months out of the indicated Three-year period.
Green Card Holders who served in the US Military Green Card Holders who served in the US military for a minimum of 1 year during peacetime These people have no need to wait for any period or have lived in the United States to become naturalized citizens of this country.
Green Card holders who have served in the US military for a minimum of 1 year during peacetime but apply for citizenship after 6 months of Separating honorably from the military These individuals must apply for citizenship after five years of having received their Green Card and having lived in the United States for at least 30 months.  The time of honorable service rendered in the US military may be included within this period.
Green Card Holders who served in the US military for less than 1 year during peacetime These individuals must apply for citizenship after five years of having received their Green Card and having lived in the United States for at least 30 months.  The time of honorable service rendered in the US military may be included within this period.
Widow (er) of a US citizen who used their service in the United States Military These individuals can apply at any time to become naturalized citizens of the United States. They must have a Green Card at the time of their citizenship interview.
MILITARY MEMBERS WITH ANY PERIOD OF WARTIME SERVICE They can apply at any time to become naturalized citizens of the United States, but they must be physically in the United States when they were associated with the US Military.

Contact an Immigration Attorney in Virginia

If you have doubts about your eligibility to become a naturalized citizen of the United States or need advice on immigration matters, do not hesitate to contact us.