Have you been a legal permanent resident for at least five years? If so, why not take the next step and become a naturalized U.S. citizen? An applicant who wants to become an American citizen must, generally, meet the following requirements:

(1) Be at least 18 years of age;

(2) Be a lawful permanent resident (“green card” holder);

(3) Have continuously resided in the United States for the five years preceding the filing of the application, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen;

(4) Be physically present in the United States for at least half of the past five years, or half of the past three years if married to a U.S. citizen (here, knowing your complete travel history is critical);

(5) Be a person of good moral character (“GMC”) during the past five (or three) years (note that GMC does not mean perfection and you may still be eligible for naturalization despite minor criminal convictions);

(6) Pass an English and U.S. civics examination (there are some exceptions based on age, time as a permanent resident, or medical condition); and

(7) Be willing to take the full oath of allegiance. (8 C.F.R. §316.2).

In addition, the applicant must show residency within the district having jurisdiction over his/her place of residency for at least three months preceding the filing of the application, and pay a filing fee unless eligible for a fee waiver or applying based on service in the U.S. Armed Forces. Lastly, male applicants born after 1960 who became lawful permanent residents and lived in the United States between 18 and 25 are required to provide information confirming registration with Selective Service.

The benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen are many, including petitioning for other family members, having the right to vote, and being eligible for certain jobs with the federal government.


About Marie Wood

Marie is licensed to practice law in the State of California and throughout the United States in federal immigration matters. She is admitted to all California state courts, the Central, Eastern, Northern, and Southern District Courts, and Immigration Courts. Marie joined Reid & Hellyer in 2016 and practices immigration law and transactional law. She has also represented individuals and lending institutions in civil litigation matters from inception of the case to post-judgment matters, and in exercising creditor rights in bankruptcy court. Marie immigrated to this country at a young age, and is fluent in Spanish. As an immigrant, she has personal knowledge of the emotional and financial struggles faced by individuals and families during the immigration process. This personal experience is what encouraged her to become an immigration attorney. Throughout the years she has volunteered countless hours at legal clinics and other events in which she has offered pro bono legal services in both immigration and civil matters. She is also a professor and teaches legal and business courses at Palomar Community College and is a guest speaker at California State University, San Marcos. Marie is the 2016 vice-president and 2017 president-elect of the Southwest Riverside County Bar Association. She is also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the AILA San Diego Chapter, the Riverside and North County Bar Associations, and the Fiorenzo V. Lopardo Chapter of the American Inns of Court. Marie received her Juris Doctor degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2009, where she graduated magna cum laude. While attending law school, she was a Notes Editor of the Thomas Jefferson Law Review, and a member of Phi Alpha Delta, the country’s oldest legal fraternity.



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