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Paths to Citizenship

For many immigrants who already have lawful permanent resident status, becoming a full United States citizen is their ultimate goal within the U.S. immigration system. While permanent residents are allowed to live and work in the United States indefinitely, they do not have all the rights of a citizen. For example, they are unable to vote in United States elections and may inadvertently give up their green cards if they leave the country for too long.

There are several paths to citizenship, four of which are detailed below. For specific information regarding your case, call the team of immigration attorneys at Kriezelman Burton & Associates, LLC today.

Most Common Path to Citizenship

The most common way that an individual can be granted citizenship is by holding a permanent resident card (“green card”) for at least five years. After five years, however, citizenship is not automatic, as you must apply and meet certain eligibility requirements. The following are some examples of criteria required to be a citizen:

  • Be at least 18 years of age;
  • Have continuously resided in the United States with a green card for the past five years;
  • Have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the five past years of residency;
  • Have continuously resided in the same state for at least three months;
  • Continue to reside in the U.S. following your application until you granted citizenship;
  • Demonstrate the ability to read, speak, and write basic English;
  • Demonstrate a basic knowledge and understanding of the United States government and history;
  • Demonstrate that you have good moral character; and
  • Adhere to the principles of the U.S. constitution.

Spouses of U.S. Citizens

If you are married to a United States citizen and have been residing continuously with him or her, you may be eligible for citizenship without having to wait five years. You must only have had a green card for three years to become a citizen as long as you meet all of the other criteria for other green card holders.

Citizenship for Military Members

There are provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that allow non-citizens who serve in the United States military to obtain citizenship more quickly than non-military members. Individuals who serve during peacetime may apply for citizenship within one year and those who serve during periods of hostilities may apply for citizenship at any time. There are other eligibility requirements that apply, so it is important for service members to speak with immigration attorneys about applying for citizenship.

Citizenship for the Children of United States Citizens

Individuals can obtain U.S. citizenship through their parents either at birth or prior to the age of 18. Whether or not an individual is eligible for citizenship is based on a number of factors, including:

  • Whether one or both parents was a citizen at the time of their birth;
  • Whether their United States citizen parents had actually lived in the U.S. or one of its territories;
  • Whether the child is residing in the United States; and
  • Whether the child’s parents were married at the time of the child’s birth.

For this reason, it is highly advisable for anyone with questions regarding obtaining citizenship through his or her parents to talk to an attorney about his or her options.

Contact a Chicago Immigration Attorney Today to Discuss your U.S. Citizenship Application

Anyone seeking United States citizenship through any path should talk to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. In many instances, the representation and assistance of an experienced lawyer can have a significant impact on the outcome of a case. To schedule a consultation with a Chicago immigration attorney, call Kriezelman Burton & Associates, LLC today at 312-332-2550.

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