There are many benefits to obtaining U.S. Citizenship. Not only are there intrinsic benefits of feeling like you belong, but also tax benefits and security in knowing that you will not deported from the U.S. However, if an individual did not qualify for naturalization or fraudulently obtained naturalization, the individual may be denaturalized. Additional benefits to U.S. Citizenship include the ability to travel on a U.S. passport, being outside the U.S. for an unlimited duration, ability to vote in U.S. elections, filing for sponsorship of other family members to come to the U.S., participating in job opportunities open only to U.S. Citizens, etc.
Some countries allow for dual citizenship and others do not. Please contact this office if you wish to explore whether you may be able to retain your home country’s citizenship if you choose to naturalize in the U.S.
In order to qualify to become a U.S. Citizen, one must be at least 18 years old and
- Must be a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. continuously for at least 5 years, or if married to a U.S. Citizen, must be a lawful permanent resident for at least 3 continuous years;
- Must reside for at least 3 months in state where the application for naturalization is filed;
- Must be “physically present” for at least half of the 5 years of residence (or half of the three years if married to a U.S. Citizen);
- Must reside continuously in the U.S. from the date of filing the naturalization application to final approval of the application;
- Must not be absent for one continuous year from the U.S. from the qualifying residence requirement;
- Must demonstrate “good moral character” within the last 5 years (or 3 years if married to a U.S. Citizen);
- Must subscribe to the U.S. Constitution;
- Must be willing to “bear arms” on behalf of the U.S.;
- Cannot be barred from the U.S. (i.e. member of the communist party, subversive, is deportable, etc.);
- Must demonstrate an elementary level of English (writing, reading and comprehension); and
- Fundamental understanding and knowledge of U.S. History and Civics.
Some individuals may qualify for a waiver of the English and U.S. History and Civics requirement. This includes individuals who are developmentally or physically disabled. There is also a waiver of the English requirement for those who have been a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. for at least 20 years and is over 50 years old or who is older than 55 years old and has been living in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 15 years.
There are also exceptions to the residence requirement for those who are veterans or those who served in the U.S. armed forces during hostilities. Contact this office if you need assistance in assessing whether you qualify under the exceptions.
If the applicant has traveled outside the U.S. extensively, it will be important to clearly document each entry and exit and the duration of time spent inside the U.S. Any crimes committed in or outside the U.S. must be considered prior to the filing of a naturalization application. It is important to have a complete assessment as to whether an individual is eligible for naturalization. In some cases, an individual may elect not apply for naturalization because of a crime that may cause the individual to become deportable. Our office is available to assist in assessing eligibility for naturalization.
How to Apply
The applicant must satisfy all the requirements for naturalization listed above prior to submitting an application for naturalization. Note that an applicant may file the N-400 as early as 90 days prior to meeting the 5 years (or in the case where someone is married to a U.S. Citizen, 3 years) of residence. Form N-400 is completed and submitted to the appropriate USCIS office designated for the applicant’s state of residence. All supporting documentation and filing fees must be submitted along with the N-400. The application will be reviewed for completeness and will then be forwarded to a local USCIS office for an interview to be scheduled.
At the interview, the USCIS officer will review the application again for completeness and may request additional documentation. The USCIS officer will typically administer on oral Civics and U.S. History test and will have the applicant answer a few questions in English and request the applicant to write something in English. Upon completion of the interview, the individual will be notified whether additional information is required or that a notice as to when the next citizenship ceremony will occur. Individuals may choose to officially change his or her name at the citizenship ceremony.
If a child is born in the U.S. then the child is automatically a U.S. citizen. If a child was born abroad and at least one parent was a U.S. citizen, and the child was a permanent resident at the time one or both parents naturalized before the child turned 18 or 21 years old, he or she may qualify as derivative U.S. citizen. Please contact this office for assistance in determining whether your child meets the citizenship requirements.