Naturalization is the process of a Lawful Permanent Resident’s becoming a U.S. citizen. If you are the child of a U.S. citizen or were born within the United States (including, in most cases, U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), you are almost certainly already a U.S. citizen. If you are not yet a U.S. citizen, we would be delighted to assist you in the naturalization process.
Benefits of Naturalization
United States citizenship has many advantages. For example, American citizens can sponsor relatives for immigration to the United States, obtain a U.S. passport, are immune to deportation for criminal convictions, can vote for government leaders, apply for high-level government positions, and even run for public office. However, individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes cannot apply for naturalization. If you have ever been convicted of a crime, you should meet with us to discuss whether it is advisable for you to apply to naturalize. In addition, while naturalization usually enables an individual to sponsor additional family members for immigration and/or shorten the time for the relative to immigrate, there are occasional exceptions. Particularly if you have already sponsored a family member to “follow to join” you, this is an important fact to discuss with an attorney before applying to naturalize.
Who is eligible to apply for naturalization?
Naturalization requirements include:
- Age: Applicants must be at least 18 years old.
- Residency: Applicants must be legal permanent residents (LPR) of the United States. Applicants will be required to present an I-551, “Alien Registration Receipt Card,” also known as a “green card,” as a proof of their permanent resident status.
- Physical Presence and continuous residence: To be eligible for naturalization, applicants must have resided continuously in the U.S. as lawful permanent residents for at least five years. During the five-year period, applicants must have been physically present in the United States for at least half the time — 30 of the previous 60 months.
- Good Moral Character: Applicants must prove that they have been people of good moral character during the relevant five-year (or three-year) period. USCIS looks particularly at the individual’s conduct in this period, examining whether applicants have complied with legal obligations.
- Language: Applicants must demonstrate their ability to read, write, speak, and comprehend the English language.
- Knowledge of United States Government and History: Applicants must demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of United States history and government, also known as civics. There is a list of 100 questions, from which the applicant will be asked up to ten questions. The applicant must get at least six questions correct.
- Oath of Allegiance: Applicants must take oaths of allegiance, in which they swear to: (1) support the Constitution and obey the laws of the United States; (2) renounce any foreign allegiances and/or foreign titles; and (3) bear arms in the U.S. armed forces and/or perform non-combatant services to the U.S. government if required by law to do so.
Exemptions from English and/or civics requirements.
Elderly or disabled individuals who may not be able to pass the English or history requirements may be eligible for exceptions. The English requirement is waived for individuals at least 50 years old who have been lawful permanent residents (LPR’s) for at least 20 years, or for those at least 55 years old who have been LPR’s for at least 15 years. These individuals may take the civics test in their native language. Those over 65 who have been LPR’s for at least 20 years have a list of only 20 civics questions to study. Individuals who suffer from a serious medical condition that prevents the individual from passing the naturalization exam may qualify for a waiver of the testing requirements. The medical condition must be serious, and must be directly related to the inability to pass the exam.
The Naturalization Process
Becoming a citizen of the United States usually takes between three and five months. The applicant first files Form N-400 and obtains a receipt. Shortly thereafter, the applicant will receive a biometrics notice, and must have fingerprints and photos taken at an assigned location. Then the individual will be scheduled for an interview. An immigration official will review all information on the application form, and will administer the English and civics tests. He or she will verify the applicant’s compliance with legal obligations such as payment of taxes and child support, and selective service (draft) registration if required. If there is any criminal record, that will be carefully examined. After successful completion of the interview, USCIS will issue a notice for an oath ceremony where the applicant will turn in the permanent resident card, be sworn in as a U.S. citizen, and receive a Certificate of Naturalization Please note that the applicant does not become a U.S. citizen until after taking the oath of citizenship. Falsely claiming U.S. citizenship can have extremely severe consequences.
In many cases, an affirmative asylum application may become a defensive application. This happens when an individual who is not in removal proceedings submits their initial application for asylum to the local USCIS office and undergoes an interview that results in a denied application. If you are in the United States illegally when USCIS denies your case, they will refer you to the immigration court and you will be subject to removal proceedings. At this point, you will re-submit your asylum application and begin a defensive application process in front of a judge.
It is important to remember that your criminal record in the United States will come into play when you apply for asylum. Individuals convicted of an aggravated felony or other “particularly serious crimes” are not eligible for asylum. Determining whether an offense is an aggravated felony or particularly serious crime may involve a complicated legal analysis and generally the assistance of an experienced DC asylum lawyer.
Automatic Citizenship of Children
If a child under 18 years old is a legal permanent resident when a parent naturalizes, the child will become a U.S. citizen “automatically” without naturalizing. (This was not always true in the past). Certain LPR children adopted abroad may also become citizens “automatically.” However, the rules regarding adopted children are extremely complex, and they vary based on the date of the adoption, the age of the child, and the country of origin. Children who become citizens automatically through action of law (or their parents, on the children’s behalf) may apply for a U.S. passport, and/or Certificate of Citizenship.
How can Dalbir Singh & Associates P.C. help you?
Dalbir Singh & Associates has a long history of assisting clients in successfully becoming naturalized citizens of the United States. We are capable of assisting you in all stages of the naturalization process, including the following:
- Helping you determine if and when you are eligible to file for naturalization.
- Assisting you with the accurate and thorough completion of form N-400 with the correct filing fees to the correct location.
- Monitoring the progress of your application and its status with USCIS.
- Accompanying you to your interview to provide legal support and ensure that the process runs smoothly.
- Assisting you in securing documentation of citizenship for any eligible children.
- Preparing you thoroughly for the interview.
- Documenting eligibility for expedited naturalization, good moral character, or qualifying for an exemption to the English or civics requirement, as appropriate.
Our office can also assist you in sponsoring relatives for immigration to the United States.