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The path to citizenship begins with a green card

Immigration is a topic that has reached a fever pitch these days. With the government’s stance on those here illegally, both sides of the issue have ceaselessly battled over the right to live in the U.S. and the pathway to doing so.

Becoming a legal U.S. citizen can seem convoluted and difficult. Knowing the steps you should take and what you can expect may help ease your fears and set you on the path to becoming a legal resident.

What is a green card?

Establishing permanent residency is the first step to getting on the path to U.S. citizenship. To do this, you must apply for and obtain a green card. This document allows you to remain in the country and work legally. You may qualify for special consideration for education and health care. You can lose your green card status if you commit a crime.

How do you get a green card?

You may believe that getting a green card is impossible, especially if you entered the country illegally. While this is not the best way to get to U.S. citizenship, you can, in fact, still qualify for permanent residency if you meet certain eligibility requirements. Some of these qualifications include the following:

  • Having a spouse, parent or child (at least 21 years old) who has citizenship
  • Being engaged to a U.S. citizen or the widow(er) of one
  • Having a specialized job skill
  • Showing you need asylum
  • Living in the U.S. long enough (usually decades)

What happens after you get a green card?

Speaking with an attorney will help you get more information on the pathway to citizenship. However, you do need to acquire a green card and maintain it, in good standing, for at least five years before applying for full naturalization citizenship. Of course, exceptions may exist, and that is why an attorney is a great resource for accessing full citizenship rights.

Becoming a U.S. citizen requires years of dedication and a green card. Once you start the process, however, you may continue on the path to naturalization.