Don’t Procrastinate: Qualified LPRs, File for Naturalization Today

Given the upcoming federal elections in 2024, eligible lawful permanent residents who desire to participate by voting will need to apply for naturalization in the coming weeks if they wish to become citizens in time to register to vote. While the process typically takes about 12 months, sometimes it takes even longer, depending on individual circumstances, government initiatives, and backlogs at certain field offices. The Biden Administration has set an aspirational goal of six-month adjudications for naturalization cases.

Becoming a U.S. citizen provides you certain rights and privileges held only by U.S. citizen, including the right to vote in federal elections. While some municipalities are permitting noncitizens to vote in local elections, voting in a federal election is a deportable offense for a non–U.S. citizen.

Generally, naturalization applicants must meet the following requirements to become a U.S. citizen: (1) Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing; (2) Continuously and physically live in the United States as a green card holder for at least five years, or three years while married to a U.S. citizen; (3) Establish residency in the state or USCIS district where applicant intends to apply; (4) Show “good moral character”; (5) Have knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history and government; (6) Be able to read, write, and speak basic English; and (7) Take a loyalty oath to the United States and support the U.S. Constitution. Certain applicants qualify for an exemption to the categories above or may apply based on their U.S. military service.

The process to naturalize requires the completion and submission of Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and supporting documentation. Naturalization provides a multitude of benefits beyond voting rights. Firstly, a U.S. citizen can petition for green cards for their parents, siblings, and married children. Secondly, the processing times for a U.S. citizen–filed petition for a spouse and children are shorter than those submitted by green card holders, and are not subject to numerical limits. Additionally, minor children under 18 year of age who are LPRs and in the U.S. can automatically acquire citizenship through their naturalized parents.

Furthermore, while LPRs may be detained and removed for certain immigration violations, U.S. citizens are protected from deportation. U.S. citizens are not required to maintain residence in the United States, while LPRs risk abandonment of status if they spend significant time outside the United States. (See article above.)

The benefits of naturalizing are multiple and clear, as it ensures that individuals do not become subject to unfavorable immigration decisions, avoids the issues that LPRs need to be conscious of to prevent the loss of the LPR status, and grants naturalized individuals with the rights and privileges to voice their opinion in the political realm.


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