If Guam has captured your heart and you’d like nothing more than to become a permanent resident of the island, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll show you how to become a citizen of Guam —and discuss the implications surrounding that citizenship.
First, though, it’s important to understand that since Guam is a U.S. territory, there are two pieces to becoming a citizen of Guam:
- If you’re not already a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you’ll need to start down that path first.
- Next, you’ll need to establish residency on Guam, which will dictate where you pay your taxes and allow you to vote on the island.
Let’s start with the first step: establishing yourself as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Becoming a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States. Those who are born in Guam are considered U.S. citizens by birth, and the residency requirements for Guam are the same as they would be in any of the 50 U.S. states.
In other words, if you want to live on Guam indefinitely, you’ll need to become a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. This is especially important if you want to get a job on the island.
Eligibility for U.S. Citizenship / Permanent Resident Status
If you’re interested in becoming a U.S. citizen, you’ll need to start by meeting a few eligibility requirements. At the time of application, you must be:
- 18 years or older
- Able to read, write, and speak basic English (There are exceptions for long-time permanent residents who are 50+)
- Of good moral character
- In one of these four categories:
- A lawful permanent resident / Green Card holder of 5+ years
- Married to a U.S. citizen
- A U.S. military service member (active duty or veteran)
- A child of a U.S. citizen
If you don’t fall into any of these final four categories, your next step will likely be looking into becoming a permanent resident. We’ll cover that next.
Applying for a Green Card / Permanent Residency
If you become a U.S. permanent resident, you’ll have the ability to live and work permanently in the United States, including territories like Guam. There are a number of eligibility categories that can qualify non-citizens for a Green Card, including:
- Family situations
- Employment arrangements
- Refugee or asylum status
To see the complete list of Green Card eligibility categories, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Once you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, the next step will be to get yourself established on Guam.
How to Become a Citizen of Guam
As a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you can move to Guam, just as you would any other U.S. destination.
A Quick Note on Documentation
If you’re headed to Guam, having your U.S. passport or Green Card available will speed your entry on arrival. (And if your flight routes you through an international destination, you’ll need these documents!) However, if you’re not touching international soil on your trip to Guam, you can present a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license and proof of citizenship. For children under 16, a birth certificate will suffice.
Once you arrive on Guam, you’ll need to get yourself established on the island, which includes things like:
- Obtaining a valid driver’s license
- Making sure you’re paying taxes to the correct entity
- Registering to vote
We’ll tackle these one by one.
Do I Need to Get a New Driver’s License on Guam?
If you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident moving to Guam, you’ll need to apply for a Guam Driver’s License within 30 days of your arrival. You can get more information on the official website for the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation.
What About Taxes? Do Residents Pay Taxes on Guam?
Guam has what’s called a mirror-code tax system. That means that Guam’s tax laws “mirror” those of the federal tax laws that govern the 50 states and the District of Columbia. However, residents of Guam pay their taxes to the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation, not to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS has very specific rules that define whether or not you’re a bona fide resident of Guam:
- The presence test – Where did you physically spend your time during the tax year in question? Were you physically present in Guam for at least 183 days?
- A tax home test – Where was your “tax home,” the place where you primarily work or do business? Was it Guam?
- A closer connection test – Is Guam the location where you have the most significant connections, including things like your primary residence, personal belongings, and core family?
If you pass these three tests, you’ll be considered a bona fide resident of Guam, at least where the IRS is concerned. In that case, you’d pay your taxes to the Guam DRT. However, if you fail these tests, you’d pay your federal taxes to the IRS, as well as any other state or local taxes that you owe.
Finally, if you want to participate in local elections on Guam, there’s one more step you’ll need to complete.
How Can I Register to Vote on Guam?
The Guam Election Commission (Kumision Ileksion Guahan in Chamorro) presides over Guam’s elections. Through their website, you’ll be able to register to vote in upcoming elections on Guam.
However, before you go to register, you may want to check your eligibility. In order to register to vote on Guam, you must:
- Not be confined to a mental institution
- Not be judicially declared incompetent
- Not be committed under a sentence of imprisonment
- Be a citizen of the United States
- Be 18 years of age by the day set for an election (If you’re 16 years old, you can preregister to vote.)
- Be a resident of Guam
And what does it mean to be a “resident of Guam?”
The short answer: Guam residency can be established by 1) paying Guam personal income taxes, 2) maintaining a permanent dwelling place on Guam that you’ve lived in for at least 30 days, and 3) not being registered to vote in any other U.S. jurisdiction.
You’ll find the long answer below, according to Guam’s laws on determining residency. There are a lot of nuances and extra details in the code, so make sure you read the whole thing to get the full picture:
§ 9123. Rules for Determining Residency
(a) Each person’s residency shall be determined individually; that is, no person’s residency shall conclusively determine the residency of that person’s spouse or child. The Commission shall not register any applicant who fails to provide sufficient information for it to determine residency.
(b) The following rules shall determine the residency of voters, candidates and nominees:
- The residency of a person is that place where that person lives for a period of at least thirty (30) days, maintains that person’s home and to which, whenever that person is absent, that person has the bona fide intention to return. For voting purposes, a person may have only one (1) residence. Indicia of residence on Guam shall include, but not be limited to, payment of Guam personal income taxes, maintaining a home or other living accommodation on Guam, having temporarily departed Guam with the intention of returning, and not being registered to vote in any other U.S. jurisdiction since departing Guam.
- A person does not gain residency on Guam, or any voting district, from which that person comes unless that person intends to establish a permanent dwelling place within Guam, or such voting district.
- If a person resides with one’s family in one (1) place, and does business or maintains real property in another place, the former is that person’s place of residence; but any person having a family, who establishes one’s own dwelling place other than with one’s family, with the intention of remaining there, shall be considered a resident where that person established such dwelling place.
- The mere intention to acquire a new residence without physical presence at such place does not establish residency.
- A person does not obtain or lose residency solely by reason of that person’s presence or absence while employed in the services of the United States, or of the government of Guam, or while a student at an institution of learning, or while kept in an institution, a hospital, or asylum, or while confined in prison.
- A person loses one’s residency in Guam if that person registers to vote or votes in an election held in a place other than Guam
- No person who is registered to vote in another U.S. jurisdiction may vote on Guam until the Commission has transmitted an affidavit to said jurisdiction requesting that person’s name to be removed from such election roll. The Commission shall provide affidavit forms for the removal of names of voters from the election rolls of other U.S. jurisdictions. For purposes of establishing residency in a district or municipality, a person shall be domiciled in that district or municipality for at least thirty (30) days immediately prior to the election. For voting purposes, a person shall have only one (1) place of domicile.
Finally, moving to Guam and establishing yourself on the island has a number of implications you’ll want to be aware of.
Guam Citizenship: What’s Different Than Living in the 50 States?
Because Guam is an unincorporated territory, things are a little different for citizens of Guam. Before you make a final decision to move to Guam, take some time to review all of the implications.
For example, Guam residents:
- Do not have the ability to vote for president.
- Are represented in Congress by a single, non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives.
- Don’t have equal access to government benefits and services, as compared to residents of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. If you’re planning on assistance from programs like
- Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), make sure you check your benefits before you make the move.
On the positive side, you may see some tax savings when you move to Guam. Unless you live in Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, or Wyoming, you’ve been paying state taxes in addition to federal taxes. On Guam, you simply pay the equivalent of federal taxes to the Guam DRT—and that’s it. In other words, moving to Guam might mean more take-home pay in your pocket.
Finally, in our opinion, Guam is an amazing island with gorgeous beaches, friendly people, a fascinating culture, and plenty to see and do. In other words, there are tons of perks on Guam just waiting for you once you make the move and get yourself established.
Still Deciding? Or Ready to Make the Move?
If you’re still thinking it over, we’ve got another resource for you. Check out our article: Is Relocating to Guam Right for You? In five steps, we’ll show you how to figure out whether the island is a good fit—before you take the plunge and become a citizen of Guam.
Or, if you’re ready to move to Guam, we’d be happy to help you get your belongings to the island! Just reach out to one of our team members for a free quote. We’d love to help you make a safe, easy, and affordable move to Guam.
Tell us about your move!