Who can apply for U.S. citizenship?
Valverde Law has extensive experience with naturalization applications. We discuss below some of the most important requirements for these types of applications.
Generally, before applying one must be at least 18 years of age and have had a green card or lawful permanent residence for a period of at least five years. This period is shortened to three years if one has been married to and is living with a U.S. citizen.
A person's five or three year residence may be disrupted for the purposes of naturalization, if the applicant has had an extended absence from the United States. If a lawful permanent resident has spent more than 6 months outside the U.S. during any one trip, a presumption is created that your residence was disrupted. You may, however, rebut this presumption by providing evidence that you still maintained your residence in the U.S.
If you have an absence of more than one year, it will disrupt your residence for purposes of qualifying for naturalization, unless you qualify for an exception under the law.
To qualify for naturalization, you must also demonstrate that you have been physically present in the United States for at least half of the required period of continuous residence. For example, if you are applying because you have had five years of continuous residence as a lawful permanent resident you must show that you were physically present in the U.S. for 913 days (roughly half of the number of days in 5 years) during that period. If you are applying for naturalization because you have had three years of continuous residence and married to a U.S. citizen, you would have to show you were physically present for 548 days or half of the three year period. Note, that the physical presence does not have to be continuous.
If you have spent extended periods of time outside of the U.S. you should consult with an immigration lawyer.
Good Moral Character
To qualify for naturalization, the applicant must also demonstrate good moral character. Criminal convictions, failure to pay taxes or child support, or being dishonest in an immigration application may cause the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to deny your naturalization application. You should consult with an experienced immigration lawyer if you have any possible issues that may cause the government to question your good moral character.
Able to read, write, and speak basic English
Unless you qualify to take the civic exam and have the interview conducted in your native language, the applicant must be prepared to take the exam and be able to answer the USCIS officer's questions in English. If you cannot conduct the naturalization interview in English, the USCIS officer will reschedule the interview to give you another opportunity.
To determine if you qualify to have the naturalization interview conducted in your native language consult with a knowledgeable immigration attorney. After being a lawful permanent resident for many years and having reached a certain age, you may not have to take the civics exam or naturalization interview in English. Also, you may be able to obtain an exemption if you have a disability.
Knowledge of U.S. Civics
At the naturalization interview, the USCIS officer will select 10 civics questions which will constitute the civics exam. To pass the exam, you must answer at least 6 questions correctly. The questions are selected from a pool of 100 questions, which are available online from the USCIS website. This is an exam that you must study in order to pass. Even native born U.S. citizens do not know many of the answers to the questions.
3 Months Residence
To qualify for naturalization, you must have lived within the state or jurisdiction of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for 3 months prior to submitting your application. This issue most often arises when the applicant has recently moved to a new state.
How do I apply for U.S. citizenship?
If you are eligible to apply for naturalization, you may file the Form N-400 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the appropriate filing and biometrics (fingerprint) fees. Once the application is received, USCIS will send you a receipt notice. Shortly after receiving this notice, USCIS will schedule your biometrics (fingerprint) appointment. After several months, USCIS will schedule your naturalization interview. If successful, USCIS will approve your application and schedule you for an oath ceremony. At the oath ceremony, you will exchange your green card for a certificate of naturalization.
With the certificate of naturalization, you can then apply for a U.S. passport with the U.S. Department of State.
Will my children also obtain U.S. citizenship?
If your children are under 18 years of age and residing with you as lawful permanent residents (green card), they will automatically become U.S. citizens upon your naturalization. After you naturalize, you can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship on the Form N-600 and/or apply for a U.S. passport with USCIS.