The USCIS (U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services) execute strict qualifications for people born in foreign countries and wish to become U.S citizens. The naturalization requirements can be complicated and confusing at times. If you have any legal questions that need professional counsel, contact the California Immigration Attorney, and we will help you understand the whole process.
Understanding U.S Citizenship
Citizenship is the primary thread that unites Americans. There are certain essential rights and responsibilities that every U.S citizen(whether by birth or by choice) should honor, practice, and respect.
Advantages of U.S Citizenship
A United States citizen has the privilege to enjoy many rights compared to foreign citizens in the United States. Some of these benefits and rights are:
- The right to vote — You get the freedom to participate in government by voting those who debate, create, and execute the law in the country.
- The right to hold public office — You gain the liberty to serve and be voted in public offices. However, a naturalized citizen can not be elected as president or vice president of the U.S; these positions are only for citizens born in the U.S.
- The right to Travel — Having a United States passport gives you the freedom to move to any part of the U.S and to receive protection and assistance from the government when traveling.
- The right to Extend citizenship to your children — Minors under eighteen years and are permanent residents with physical and legal custody of parents eligible for naturalization become U.S citizens automatically after their parents become U.S citizens. Children who are born after their parents have been naturalized also gain citizenship through "jus sanguinis."
- The right to Bring together families — You gain the freedom of helping your relatives, such as your parents, spouse, minors, and children that are not married, to acquire visas without the prolonged delay quickly.
Here are the responsibilities of American citizens:
- Defend and support the United States constitution
- Be informed of the problems affecting your community
- Take part in domestic practices
- Obey and respect the state, federal, and local laws
- Respect the opinions and beliefs of other people
- Take part in local community activities
- Pay taxes and income on time
- Defend the country when necessary
Foreign individuals can become citizens of the United States through naturalization. However, they are several filing requirements that every applicant must meet. These requirements include:
Any person applying for naturalization should be above eighteen years. The elderly applicants who are U.S residents may qualify to do away with the civics test and English language requirements for a long time.
The applicants should be legal residents of the United States and have an “Alien Registration Card (1-551)” to go ahead.
Before filing for naturalization, the applicant should have been substantially present in the United States for thirty months out of the five years. In case the candidate was not in the country for up to six months, but less than twelve months, she can prove that his/her absence was not a neglect of the occupant status.
Good Moral Character
Individuals applying for naturalization must portray a good moral character for the five years before the application. Those convicted of murder are not eligible for naturalization and aggravated felony convictions on or after 29th November 1990.
During the five years before application, various criminal convictions can affect your naturalization.
Loyalty to The Constitution
When applying for naturalization, an applicant must show their willingness to defend the U.S and support the constitution. It occurs when taking the oath of loyalty.
Naturalization applicants should be able to understand, speak, read, and write English. But some applicants may be spared from this due to their age or mental state.
Knowledge of U.S Government and History
Naturalization applicants should show the proficiency of the basics of the United States history and various concepts of the United States government. However, this is waived on applicants who have a physical or mental problem that troubles their learning capability.
Oath of Allegiance
United States citizenship is given after taking the oath of allegiance. In some cases, there may be modified oaths available like religious opposition to commitments.
Steps of General Naturalization
Acquiring American citizenship takes some steps. These steps are:
- Determine Your Eligibility for U.S Citizenship — The first step is acknowledging if you have a U.S lawful permanent residence/ green card. Apart from a few exceptions, you should have a green card for you to be eligible to apply for U.S citizenship. If you have a green card, there are additional requirements(discussed above) that you must meet.
- Overcome The Hindrances to Your Ineligibility — At the time, you may find that you are not eligible for U.S citizenship. Maybe because of a minor crime you committed(note a petty crime that did not lead to your deportation), or perhaps you spent many years abroad and broke your residence's continuity. In some cases, waiting longer can make you eligible, or there are certain activities that you could take part in to gain eligibility. To get a full analysis on this, contact an experienced immigration lawyer.
- File The USCIS Form N-400 — After confirming your eligibility, you are supposed to apply with the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services. To start the process, you need to file form N- 400. In general, the cost of applying for naturalization is $640 plus $85 for biometrics/fingerprints. You also need to attach your green card copy to the application form. After your application has successfully gone through, you will be informed of the date set for your biometrics collection.
- Attend Biometrics Appointments — Before processing your application, the USCIS must perform a background check. You will be issued a date and a local office address where your fingerprints will be collected. Your fingerprints will then be passed through the FBI and other connected databases to perform a background check.
- Attend an interview at the USCIS Offices — Shortly after your biometrics appointment, you will be informed of the date and address for your interview appointments with a USCIS officer. During your interview, the officer will check through your N-400 form and confirm your answers to the queries. The USCIS officer will also test you on your English knowledge as well as the U.S civics.
- Attend The Oath Ceremony — After you are approved, ensure that you maintain your eligibility. For instance, if you had committed a serious crime and are arrested, you could quickly lose your eligibility.
You will be invited to a large ceremony where you and others will be given the oath to swear on your loyalty to the U.S. After this, you will be issued with a certificate of naturalization to show that you are legally a U.S citizen.
How to File For Naturalization
You can choose to file online or by paper. Below are guides on how you can file for both:
How to File Online
Start by creating a USCIS online account, then:
- Submit any necessary evidence
- Pay the required fees electronically
- Receive your case status updates and see the full history of your case
- Communicate with the USCIS officials directly and securely and
- Respond to any plea for evidence
You can also sign in to your account if you already have an online account.
How to File By Paper
You are supposed to:
- Carefully read and understand the instructions on Form N-400(Application for Naturalization)
- Fill and sign the form.
- Pay the charges for filling.
- Provide any necessary documents
- Provide all the evidence required
After receiving your Form N-400, you will also receive:
- Notice confirming that your application has been received
- Date of the Biometrics services
- Notice informing you about your interview date
- The decision that has been made.
Naturalization For Spouses of U.S Citizens
According to their immigration law, a legal resident of the U.S must stay for at least five years before applying for citizenship. Even so, permanent residents who are lawfully married to U.S citizens can apply for naturalization after residing in the United States for three consecutive years. But they also need to have:
- Lived in a logical marital relationship with the same partner for three years, and the partner should be a U.S citizen.
- The U.S citizen partner has had citizenship for three years.
- The applicant meets all the above requirements of becoming a U.S citizen.
In some instances, the physical residence requirements may be withdrawn for a legal permanent resident whose spouse(a U.S resident) is employed by either of the following:
- The United States government, including the U.S military
- Research Institutions in the U.S
- Research Institute recognized by the office of the Attorney General of the United States.
- Religious organizations that are officially recognized in the U.S
- Explicit international organizations entangled to the U.S.
For the children born abroad but their parents are U.S citizens, their parents can apply for a citizenship certificate on their behalf and attach documents as directed on Form N-600.
Citizenship Through Parents
Children born in foreign countries and children adopted from abroad acquire citizenship from their parents, who are U.S citizens.
The eligibility of citizenship through parents depends on:
- The child’s date of birth
- The parents’ marital status and citizenship
- The parents' residence and physical presence in the U.S before the child's birth
- Whether the child was born in or outside wedlock
- Whether the parent legitimated the child
- Whether the child was adopted legally
How to File
You may choose to apply by paper or online. The following are steps to guide you through the process:
File By Paper
When filing for citizenship by paper, you should:
- Read and understand the instructions for Form N-600
- Fill and sign your Form N-600
- Pay the filing fee if there is any.
- Provide the required documentation and evidence
To file online, you must create a USCIS online account and:
- Submit any evidence required online
- Pay filing fees if applicable electronically.
- Get case status updates on your case and view the entire case history.
- Respond to any appeal for evidence.
If you have an existing account, log in to your account and get started.
After You File
After receiving Form N-600, you will also receive the following:
- A receipt notice confirming that your application has been received
- Biometrics service appointment if need be and
- The final decision
Naturalization of Spouses and Children of Military Service
Spouses and children of military service members may be allowed to apply for naturalization, but only if they meet various requirements. Under INA section 319(b), military spouses are qualified for naturalization if their spouse is based abroad. However, military spouses must:
- They should be present in the United States during naturalization and the time of in-person interviews.
- Be lawful permanent residents during the time of in-person interviews of the naturalization application.
- Show that their spouse is a citizen of the United States and will be stationed overseas as a military member for at least a year.
- Must be authorized by their spouse's official laws to accompany their spouse overseas.
- Observe the general naturalization requirements apart from the physical presence duration and the residence requirements.
If the military spouse is an LPR, they are allowed to naturalize overseas without traveling to the United States, but they must:
- Must be bellowed by their official laws to accompany their spouse overseas
- Be living with their spouse abroad in a marital union.
- Meet the qualifications of section319(a) or 316(a)of the INA when they file for naturalization.
Under INIA section 322, children of military service members stationed abroad are eligible to naturalize overseas. However, the parent(U.S citizen) can apply for citizenship based on their child born abroad and has not become a citizen automatically under INA section 320. Some of the requirements that the child should meet include:
- Be below eighteen years.
- Appear on the military service member orders of the U.S citizen
- Resides abroad with the parent who is a U.S citizen at the military
Naturalization for Gold Star Families
Under INA SECTION 319(D), a surviving parent, child, or spouse of a U.S citizen who passed on in the line of duty in the U.S Armed forces is entitled to naturalization if they meet the general requirements. The thirty months of physical presence and five-year continuous residence requirements do not apply in this case.
A surviving spouse should be living in a marital union with the military member when they pass on.
Advantages of Applying for Citizenship Through Military Service
There are three significant benefits of applying for U.S citizenship for foreign-born service members. These benefits include:
- Short Residency Requirements — Applicants must live in the U.S for five years as permanent residents or up to three years if they are legally married to a U.S citizen before filing for naturalization. However, foreign-born service members require twelve months of honorable service before filing their application.
- The State of Residence Requirement is not necessary — Applicants must reside in the service district or state for at least three months before they can file for naturalization. For foreign-born service members, this requirement is not compulsory.
- Waived Application Fee —To become U.S citizens, applicants spend about $800 for the naturalization application and fingerprint fees. The foreign-born service members, theta, are not supposed to pay any price, but their spouses must pay.
Steps to U.S Citizenship and Naturalization Through Military Service
Below are some of the steps to guide you on how naturalization for foreign-born service members works.
- Ensure you are qualified for citizenship — You can use the Naturalization Eligibility worksheet.
- Complete your line of command and certify form N-426. Ask for military certification from N-426 after completing your form portion. After completing 180 days of active duty at times of hostility(including training), your chain of command(must be 0-6) can certify your form.
- Complete form N-400 — Completion and certification of form N-400 and N-426([above) is part of the process. There is crucial information in Form N-400 instructions on filling the way and the required documents to complete the naturalization exercise. Providing those documents at the beginning saves time as it allows you to gather the necessary materials before filling the application. During the application process, the USCIS will obtain your biometrics as part of security checks.
- Provide you Biometrics — This is always done to confirm your identity. Those residing stateside will receive a notice to provide biometrics (fingerprints) at the Application Support Center. Those who are on active duty are allowed to give biometrics before the filling. They also do not require an appointment with the ASC. If you are abroad, you should provide FD-258 cards and passport photos when filling the N-400 form.
- In-person interview with an allocated USCIS officer at a classified location — The administrator will go through your registration forms together with you and examine your expertise in written and spoken English as well as the United States history and civics. Depending on your evaluation performance, the USCIS administrator may approve your naturalization request, halt, deny, or require further examination. If your N-400 application is rejected, you will be sent a written note explaining the causes for the decline and how you can file form N-336 to appeal that decision. You can also ask for a trial in naturalization litigation.
- If the USCIS accepts your Form N-400, you will take part in the Oath of Allegiance and become a citizen of the United States by law — In some cases, this happens on the same interview day, or it is planned for a particular day.
Dual citizenship is when a person has legal citizenship for two different countries. It means they have legal rights and responsibilities in the two countries at the same time. Though dual citizenship has various advantages like easy access to government services and residency in two states, some legal considerations make double citizenship complex. For instance, you will have tax obligations in the two countries.
Acquiring Dual Citizenship
There are several ways in which a person in the U.S can acquire dual citizenship. These include:
- Being born by immigrant parents in the U.S
- Being born outside the U.S by one parent who has citizenship of a different country and the other parent who is a U.s citizen
- Filling for U.S citizenship through naturalization while still maintaining the other country’s citizenship
- Regaining citizenship of your origin country after becoming a naturalized U.S citizen
If you have different passports, it is essential to keep them updated and to use them accordingly in each country. It would help if you also kept up with each state's citizenship requirements, like tax obligations. You risk losing your citizenship if you fail to fulfill your citizen duties in each country.
Dual Citizenship Recognition in the U.S
Dual citizenship is not formally recognized in the United States. However, the country has not taken any political or legal stand against it. No American citizen will lose his/her citizenship by taking the responsibilities of a citizen in another country. The U.S authorities are not concerned about whether another country declares you their citizen.
Lose/Renounce U.S Citizenship
If you voluntarily renounce your United States citizenship, you are no longer considered an American citizen. Some cases could make you lose your U.S citizenship. For example:
- File for citizenship in another country to abandon your U.S citizenship
- Commit a treason action against the U.S
- Join military service in another country
- Run for a public office in another country
Renouncing your United States citizenship has its repercussions, and you must not make the decision faintly because undoing is almost impossible. Giving up on your citizenship conveys that:
- You surrender your privileges as well as your responsibilities as a United States citizen.
- You risk becoming "stateless" if you do not apply for citizenship in another country.
- You may need to have a visa when visiting the U.S.
Find an Immigration Attorney Near Me
To be successful in the United States' naturalization process, it calls for an in-depth understanding of the steps involved and careful preparation at all stages. If you are considering acquiring a U.S citizenship through any of these processes, an immigration attorney can help you navigate the entire process and offer professional guidance. Contact the California Immigration Attorney today at 424-789-8809, and we will help you through each stage and protect your legal rights.