Immigration law blog

How to become a U.S. Citizen (Naturalize)

Who is qualified to become a citizen?

If you became a permanent resident (green-card holder) through marriage to a U.S. citizen you may be eligible for citizenship as soon as three years after receiving your residency. If you did not become a permanent resident through a U.S. citizen spouse, you may be eligible to become a citizen as soon as five years.

In either case, to be eligible to become a U.S. citizen, you must:

  • Be 18 or older at the time of filing
  • Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application (or at least 18 months if applying under 3 year rule)
  • Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization (never leaving for more than 6 months at a time)
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics) There are some exceptions, but speak to a lawyer to see if you qualify.
  • Be a person of good moral character (especially within past 5 years)

A permanent resident applies for citizenship with Form N-400, which requires substantial amounts of biographic information for you and your relatives.

A common issue among our clients is how their crimes affect their application. Certain crimes can completely prevent you from being eligible for citizenship while other crimes can make it difficult to establish that you’re a person of good moral character but not altogether bar you from citizenship.

It is important to obtain all the court documentation for your criminal history. Depending on the crime, we may recommend that you wait until five years after your last criminal case was closed (not committed).

If you have any criminal history it is especially important to consult with an immigration attorney (click here) to evaluate its impact on your application for citizenship.

L.I.H. Law is a trusted immigration law firm with our office conveniently located in Seattle, near the Seattle Space Needle (2nd Ave and Denny Way).

Our well-respected attorneys exclusively practice immigration law, covering diverse topics: asylum, deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), detention cases, fiancé visas (K-1 visas), green cards, immigration status for victims of domestic violence or other crimes, naturalization applications, and much more.

The immigration attorneys and professional staff at L.I.H. Law are dedicated to providing the right solutions to meet our clients’ immigration needs.  Our entire staff is fluent in Spanish and has served clientele from around the world.

Supporting our local immigration community is important to us. Our immigration lawyers and staff are active in volunteering for various community events and organizations, and conducting pro-bono work.

Lesley Irizarry-Hougan

Lesley has been practicing law since July, 2005. She has significant experience in representing clients in Immigration Court, both detained and non-detained cases; appeals from immigration judge decisions, both at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; and the Board of Immigration Appeals. Lesley is actively involved in her community, regularly volunteering at the Latina/o Bar Association Legal Clinic and the King County Bar Association Neighborhood Legal Clinic. Lesley Irizarry-Hougan ha estado practicando exclusivamente leyes de inmigración desde Julio del 2005. Ella tiene experiencia significante representando clientes en la Corte de Inmigración; apelando las decisiones del juez de inmigración, ambos a la Corte de Apelaciones de Estados Unidos para el Noveno Circuito y la Corte de Distrito de Estados Unidos para el Oeste de Washington. Lesley también se especializa en aplicaciones afirmativas, incluyendo aplicaciones para la tarjeta verde (Mica), asilo, NACARA, y aplicaciones de ciudadanía archivado en los Estados Unidos y Servicios de Inmigración. Lesley también hace certificaciones de trabajo, incluyendo aplicaciones de cocineros especializados. Ella habla español nativo.

L.I.H. Law, P.S., Immigration Lawyer, Seattle, WA