Becoming a Citizen
Becoming a United States Citizen is the dream of most immigrants. At times, uninformed immigrants with past criminal acts file an Application for Naturalization on their own and they end up in Removal Proceedings in front of an Immigration Judge. This is because they did not consult a skilled immigration attorney who has reviewed their past history to assess whether they are able to naturalize. Other times, individuals do not apply for naturalization because they are unable to speak English or learn History, and are unaware that certain individuals can file a waiver to waive both tests. In essence, prior to filing for naturalization it is paramount that a skilled immigration lawyer be consulted. Individuals are often surprised and find out that they are already U.S. Citizens by operation of law.
What Is Naturalization?
Naturalization is commonly referred to as the manner in which a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen.
The Constitution and laws of the United States give many rights to both citizens and non-citizens living in the United States. However, some rights are only for citizens, such as:
- Voting. Only U.S. citizens can vote in Federal elections. Most States also restrict the right to vote, in most elections, to U.S. citizens.
- Bringing family members to the United States. Citizens generally get priority when petitioning to bring family members permanently to the U.S..
- Obtaining citizenship for children born abroad. In most cases, a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen is automatically a U.S. citizen.
- Traveling with a U.S. passport. A U.S. passport allows you to get assistance from the U.S. government when overseas.
- Becoming eligible for Federal jobs. Most jobs with government agencies require U.S. citizenship.
- Becoming an elected official. Many elected offices in this country require U.S. citizenship.
- Showing your patriotism. In addition, becoming a U.S. citizen is a way to demonstrate your commitment to your new country.
What are the requirements for naturalization?
The process of obtaining U.S. citizenship is called naturalization. Here are the basic requirements for naturalization:
- Permanent Residency: You must be a permanent resident, i.e., have a green card to apply for naturalization
- Continuous Residency in the United States
- Physical presence in the United States
- Ability to read, write, and speak English (in most cases)
- Knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and civics
- Good moral character
- Support for the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. government
Common Obstacles to Citizenship, Naturalization
Everyone makes mistakes. But if your goal is U.S. citizenship, even a small mistake many years ago can stand in the way of your dream. Other potential problems for applicants for citizenship include:
- Voting in U.S. elections as a permanent resident
- Failure to pay child support
- Failure or omission to pay Taxes
- Failure to register for selective service (for man only)
- Staying outside the U.S. for a long period of time
- Separation from your husband or wife
Who can apply for naturalization?
- If you are at least 18 years old and have been a Permanent Resident for the past 5 years and have no special circumstances. NOTE: Over 90% of applicants fall into this category.
- If you are at least 18 years old and are currently married to and living with a U.S. citizen; and have been married to and living with that same U.S. citizen for the past 3 years; and your spouse has been a U.S. citizen for the past 3 years.
- If you have 5 years as a Permanent Resident (a.k.a. you had your ‘Green Card’ for 5 years) without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longer.
- If you are in the U.S. Armed Forces (or will be filing your application within 6 months of an honorable discharge); and have served for at least 1 year.
- If you are at least 18 years old and were in the U.S. Armed Forces for less than 1 year or If you are at least 18 years old and were in the U.S. Armed Forces for 1 year or more, but you were discharged more than 6 months ago.
- If you performed active duty military service during:
- World War I (April 6, 1917-November 11, 1918);
- World War II (September 1, 1939-December 31, 1946);
- Korea (June 25, 1950-July 1, 1955);
- Vietnam (February 28, 1961-October 15, 1978);
- Persian Gulf (August 2, 1990-April 11, 1991); or
- On or after September 11, 2001.
NOTE: If you did not enlist or reenlist in the United States or its outlying possessions, you must be a Permanent Resident on the day you file your application. NOTE: If you were out of the country as part of your service, this time out of the country does not break your continuous residence. It is treated just like time spent in the United States. Please note this information is not a substitute for legal advice. Each case is unique, thus to assess your best options, contact us at any time. (617) 536-0584 firstname.lastname@example.org