Birth or naturalization are two basic means to becoming a U.S. Citizen. Naturalization is obtained through several means, mostly after obtaining permanent residency and meeting several immigration requirements. There are a lot of benefits to becoming a U.S. citizen, such as having the right to vote, eligibility for a U.S. passport thus more freedom of travel to other countries, and ability to work for the federal government.
Naturalization Basic Requirements
To be a naturalized citizen of the U.S., an applicant must be:
- A green card holder;
- 18 years old or older (note that a green card minor under 18 would qualify to become a citizen if his or her parent becomes a naturalized citizen);
- A resident continuously for five years after becoming a permanent resident (if married to a U.S. citizen, the residency requirement is only three years);
- Of good moral character during the statutory period.
Continuous Residence and Physical Presence Requirements
There are also requirements with regards to continuous residence and physical presence. The applicant must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one-half of the five years (or one-half of the three years if married to a U.S. citizen). The applicant must not be out of the U.S. for a continuous period of more than one year during the period for which continuous residence is required. Absence of more than six months but less than one year results in a rebuttable presumption of disruption of continuous residence. Reasons pertaining to education, employment, and medication are all ways to rebut the presumption.
If the continuous residence was disrupted by a lengthened trip outside the U.S., the applicant may apply for U.S. citizenship four years and one day after the date of his or her return to the U.S. For the spouse of a U.S. citizen, the timeframe becomes two years and one day. Note that for both continuous residence and physical presence, the requirements are cumulative and not continuous. A permanent resident can leave and come back to the U.S. as much as s/he wants as long as the continuity of residence is not broken and the physical presence requirement is met prior to applying for citizenship.
Good Moral Character for Naturalization
For naturalization purposes, the rule is that the applicant must have good moral character during the statutory period of five years (three years if married to a U.S. citizen). The law states though that immigration officers may look beyond the statutory period to assess good moral character.
The Yes/No questions on the naturalization application N-400 basically delineate the types of instances on which an applicant can fail the good moral character standard. Some of the more common circumstances in which an applicant can fail to meet this requirement are the following:
- Failure to file taxes properly
- Failure to register with the Selective Service if the person is required to
- Those who have committed and have been convicted of at least one crime involving moral turpitude
- Those who have committed and have been convicted of two or more offenses in which the total sentence was five years or more
- Those convicted of any controlled substance law, except for a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana
- Those who have been confined to a penal institution during the statutory period due to a conviction, for an aggregate period of 180 days or more
- Those who have willfully failed or refused to support dependents
- Those who have given false testimony under oath to receive an immigration benefit
English Language and U.S. Civics Requirement
The applicant must have the ability to read, write, and speak English. The immigration officer, at the interview, would orally state a simple English sentence and would ask the applicant to write it down on a piece of paper. S/he would also do the opposite, and show the applicant a written English sentence and would ask him or her to read it.
Please note that the language requirements does not apply to:
- Those who are physically unable to comply because of a disability;
- Those who are unable to comply due to mental impairment;
- Those who are at least 50 years old at the time of filing the N-400 and lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for at least 20 years;
- Those who are at least 55 years old and lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for at least 15 years. You need to have a basic understanding of US history and the form of the US government. For this test, the USCIS has a list of 100 questions about US history and government, and the questions you’ll be asked come directly from this list. The USCIS officer will ask you several questions, but no more than 10, such as:
You also need to have a basic understanding of US history and the form of the US government. For this test, the USCIS has a list of 100 questions about US history and government, and the questions you’ll be asked come straight from this list. This list is often given at the day you go for fingerprinting and biometrics. The USCIS officer will ask you several questions, but no more than 10, and all of those are in the list originally given to you. To pass the test, you need to answer at least six questions correctly.
You have to take the history and civics test even if you were not required to take the English language test. Some age-related rules apply though
- 50 years old or older and you’ve lived in the US as permanent resident for at least 20 years, you can take the civics and history test in your language
- 55 years old or older and you’ve lived in the US as permanent resident for at least 15 years, you can take the test in your language
- 65 years old or older and you’ve lived in the US as permanent resident at least 10 years, you don’t have to study all 100 questions. Rather, there are 20 questions from the list of 100 that you need to be able to answer.
Our office will review every aspect of your case and prepare all the necessary application documents. You will be informed of the expected time frame of each step. We will conduct an interview for you in preparation for the naturalization interview. An attorney may also accompany you during the interview, regardless of where it is conducted in the U.S. All possible services our office provides in the area of Naturalization and Citizenship are as follows: N-400 Application for Naturalization; N-336 Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization; N-600 Application for Citizenship Based on Parentage; U.S. Passport Application; Response to Requests for Evidence; Response to Notice of Intent to Deny; and Mandamus.
Articles on Naturalization and Citizenship
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