Requirements for U.S. citizenship

If you are a foreign national living in New Jersey, you may want to consider becoming a U.S. citizen. While legal permanent residency can allow you to live and work in the country, citizenship provides other benefits such as easier travel and the right to vote.

The naturalization process

Naturalization is the process by which a foreign national becomes a U.S. citizen. The process has several requirements, but it begins with an individual maintaining legal residency and physical presence in the U.S.

When applying for naturalization, you must be able to show that you have been physically present in the U.S. for 30 months or more out of the last five years. If there is a prolonged absence from the country that did not exceed one year, you may still qualify for naturalization if you can prove that you did not abandon your U.S. residency.

Other requirements for naturalization

Other requirements for naturalization include proficiency in the English language, a clean criminal record, knowledge of U.S. history and government and the willingness to swear an oath of allegiance to the country. Your criminal background does not have to be spotless, but certain felony convictions could be a permanent barrier to naturalization. The “good moral character” requirement for naturalization generally concerns the previous five-year period before the application.

Things that can speed up the naturalization process

If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you may be able to naturalize after only three years of permanent residency. Some residents who served in the U.S. military can qualify for citizenship on an even faster timeline.

A lawyer may help

As long as you meet all of the qualifications, you should only have to apply for naturalization once in your lifetime. You may want to seek assistance from an immigration lawyer who is familiar with the process.

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