US Citizenship Applications

A foreigner is not required to apply for U.S. citizenship. It is possible to be a green card holder for life. However, there are some advantages of U.S. citizenship.

A foreigner may qualify for U.S. citizenship after holding a green card for a number of years.

  1. 3 years after the original issuance date if the green card was obtained based on marriage to a U.S. citizen and the couple is still married or
  2. 5 years after the original issuance date in all other cases with
  3. an exception: If a green card holder joins the U.S. military, he or she may apply immediately.

Advantages of US citizenship

  1. U.S. citizenship cannot generally be taken away whereas a green card can be taken away if requirements are not maintained.
  2. A U.S. citizen does not need to maintain primary residence in the U.S. Green card holders must generally maintain primary residence in the U.S. and be physically present a majority of the time.
  3. If a U.S. citizen commits a crime, he or she will not be deported. A green card holder can be deported for committing a wide variety of crimes.
  4. The U.S. allows dual citizenship with other countries.
U.S. allows dual citizenship with other countries
U.S. allows dual citizenship with other countries

A green card holder may file an application for U.S. citizenship based on marriage to a U.S. citizen anytime within 3 months prior to the 3rd anniversary date of the original issuance of the green card, or at any time thereafter.

Allan Scott Lolly

managing attorney


The green card holder must generally show

  1. physical presence in the same location in the U.S. for at least 3 months prior to submission of the application (exception: if the foreigner is out of the U.S. temporarily and returns to the same U.S. address),
  2. physical presence in the U.S. more than half the time required (18 months if the green card is based on marriage),
  3. less than 6 months outside the U.S. on any single trip abroad (exception: lack of physical presence can be overcome where evidence of U.S. residency is maintained),
  4. bona fide marriage to a U.S. citizen if applying in less than 5 years after obtaining the green card, and
  5. good moral character (false statements or criminal arrests undermines GMC).
    1. Generally, there should be no criminal offenses during the past 5 years and the green card holder must not be on probation or parole at the time of application for U.S. citizenship. Although GMC is not limited to a 5-year look back, USCIS adjudicators commonly have a bias against approval for recent criminal problems.  See, The Effect of Criminal Offenses for more information about crimes generally. Many criminal offenses can put the green card itself in jeopardy.  Inadmissibility on a visa and removability from the U.S. have differences, but at least you have an idea about the problems with criminal offenses.

Note: Someone who has received certain prohibited welfare benefits within 5 years after obtaining a green card can be scrutinized. The foreigner might be put into immigration court removal proceedings if it appears that the immigration officer who approved the green card did not have all the facts at the time the green card was approved.

Overseas Workers

The foreigner does not need to hold a green card for three years with primary residence in the U.S. if the U.S. citizen spouse works overseas with any of the following organizations.

  1. U.S. Armed Services
  2. Contractor with the U.S. Government
  3. American Institution of research recognized by the U.S. Attorney General
  4. American owned company engaged in foreign commerce for the U.S.
  5. Public international organization pursuant to a treaty with the U.S.
  6. Ministerial or priestly functions with a religious institution that has a valid presence in the U.S.


  1. When an adult becomes a U.S. citizen, any unmarried minor child of new U.S. citizen can automatically become U.S. citizens as well, provided the child first obtains a green card.
  2. A child of an adult U.S. citizen who is born outside the U.S. is also generally a U.S. citizen provided the adult registers the birth with a U.S. consulate abroad.

Call Us Now — If you would like assistance in applying for U.S. citizenship. Any defect in the application that reveals a serious concern can put the green card itself in jeopardy. For this reason, it is worth having an attorney assist with the application process.

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