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Naturalization is a dream many immigrants aspire to. Being a U.S. citizen comes with certain privileges that allow folks to build a life for their families here.

But becoming a U.S. citizen can’t happen overnight. One of the most common questions we get at Pelton & Balducci is how long it takes to become a citizen.

From our New Orleans-based team of immigration attorneys, here’s what you need to know.

The Short Answer

From the moment you get your green card, you should be able to apply for citizenship after 3 or 5 years, and your application should be approved within a year after that.

That means the whole process should ideally take between 4 to 6 years after obtaining permanent residency.

Let’s take a look at how we arrived at these numbers.


Naturalization has a residency requirement, meaning you must have lived in the U.S. continuously as a lawful permanent resident for a period of time before you can apply:

  • 5 years for most lawful permanent residents
  • 3 years if you’re married to a U.S. citizen

Once your application has been filed, it generally takes between 10 to 18 months before you’re approved. Note, however, that processing times vary across field offices. At the time of this posting USCIS processing times for New Orleans indicate that 80 percent of cases are adjudicated within 13.5 months.

It’s important to recognize, however, that these timeline estimates are just that– estimates. There is no one-size-fits all process for citizenship application, and unfortunately road blocks sometimes occur.

Requirements for Naturalization

There’s a host of requirements for naturalization, but generally the fundamentals are the following:

  • Lawful Permanent Residence: If you don’t already have a green card, that is the first step you need to take before you can begin the path to citizenship.
  • Continuous Residence: As discussed above, you must have lived in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for at least 5 years, or 3 years if you’re married to a U.S. citizen. Extended absences from the U.S. can lead to a finding that you have abandoned your U.S. residence.
  • Continuous physical presence: Related to residence, you also have to show that you’ve been physically present in the United States for at least half the time of your residence in the U.S.
  • Good Moral Character: Applicants must demonstrate good moral character during the time leading up to naturalization. This involves, among other things, fulfilling tax obligations, avoiding serious criminal issues, and adhering to U.S. laws.
  • English Language and Civics Exam: One of the significant steps in the naturalization process is passing an English language and U.S. civics exam. While most applicants are required to take these exams, there are exceptions. Those with disabilities preventing them from taking the test may be exempt, and certain applicants are also excused from the English language requirement based on age and length of permanent residency.

That’s why it can be helpful to have an experienced immigration attorney by your side throughout the process.

Hire a New Orleans Immigration Attorney Today

At Pelton & Balducci, we believe that being informed and prepared is key to a successful naturalization journey. Our team of experienced immigration attorneys is dedicated to guiding you through each stage, providing reliable guidance, and ensuring that you have the support you need to achieve your goal of becoming a U.S. citizen.

Whether you’re just beginning the process or you’re looking for assistance during your naturalization interview, contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation.

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