Naturalization is a legal process an individual uses to acquire United States citizenship. This process is the path to citizenship for individuals who were not born as United States citizens or for individuals who did not obtain United States citizenship after birth.
An individual is a United States citizen by birth if they were born in the United States, including the following territories:
- Puerto Rico; and
- The Virgin Islands.
Individuals who were born abroad may be United States citizens at birth if both of their parents were United States citizens at the time they were born or if at least one of their parents lived in the United States at some point during their lifetime. Additionally, an individual may be a United States citizen at birth if one of their parents was a United States citizen, subject to some additional requirements.
Only individuals who have a permanent visa, or a green card, are permitted to apply for naturalization. Naturalization is often a lengthy and complex process. An applicant will be required to submit various forms and documents which prove their eligibility.
Naturalized citizens in the United States receive various rights, including the right to vote and the right to hold a U.S. passport. In order to begin this naturalization process, an individual is required to file a citizenship application.
A citizenship application involves many different requirements, documents, and other steps. For example, an individual must verify that they:
- Are, in fact, a permanent resident of the United States;
- Have good moral character; and
- Have resided in the United States for a certain period of time.
The individual will also be required to submit documents, including:
- Fingerprints; and
- Other documents and forms.
The naturalization process may take several months to complete. In order to ensure that the application is not returned before it is fully evaluated, the applicant should make sure all requested information is included, such as:
- The naturalization application;
- Having current photographs taken; and
- Having fingerprints taken.
The applicant will be interviewed. After this time, they will know whether or not their application was approved.
The time it takes to become a naturalized citizen varies by applicant, but typically takes between 5 and 7 years. This is because each applicant must wait 5 years from the date that they received LPR status prior to filing for the naturalization process.
Once a naturalization application has been filed, it can take anywhere from 1 to 2 years to complete the naturalization filing process, which includes the required interviews and tests. The applicant becomes a United States citizen on the date which they take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. The Oath is usually administered in a formal ceremony and that date will be recorded on the individual’s Certificate of Naturalization.
Naturalized citizens are provided various privileges, including the right to:
- Register and vote;
- Hold a United States passport; and
- Serve on a jury.
What is Required to Become a Naturalized Citizen?
There are numerous requirements for an individual to become a naturalized citizen of the United States, including:
- The ability to speak, write, and read English;
- A knowledge about and understanding of United States history and government;
- Good moral character;
- An attachment to the ideals of the U.S. Constitution;
- A favorable disposition towards the U.S.; and
- A continued physical residence or presence in the United States for a specified period.
An individual can submit their Application for Naturalization, Form N-400, to the proper United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) center. Individuals should also submit any other documents or additional information which was requested.
It is important for the applicant to make copies of their application as well as any and all documents which are submitted for their records. An applicant should not send in their original documents with their application unless there is a requirement for an original signature.
It is important for the applicant to remember that honesty is an important part of the process. If an individual has been convicted of a crime, the details of the crime must be disclosed to the USCIS. This includes convictions which have been expunged. If an applicant falsifies information or conceals information, the USCIS may deny their application.
What Must I Consider for My Naturalization Application?
When an individual is filing a naturalization application, there are some legal considerations which the applicant should keep in mind. This includes issues such as:
- Residency requirements;
- Criminal records; and
- Immigration fraud.
An individual is required to have been residing in the United States for a set amount of total time during the time in which they have had their lawful permanent resident status. The manner by which this time is calculated can be complicated, especially if the individual has left the United States at any point in time prior to their application. It may be necessary to have the assistance of an attorney to determine these calculations and eligibility requirements.
As previously noted, an applicant for naturalization is required to have good moral character. This means that certain individuals may run into obstacles when they are applying for citizenship. This can include individuals who have a criminal record including:
- Felony charges;
- Serious misdemeanors; or
- Multiple criminal convictions.
It is important for applicants to avoid attempting to use misrepresentation or fraud on an immigration application. This may result in rejected applications and, in some cases, criminal charges.
There are certain errors on an application which may be misconstrued and may lead to a fraud investigation. Therefore, it is essential to avoid mistakes and errors on an application.
How Can I Avoid Legal Disputes with My Application?
Many legal issues which arise from a naturalization application come from omissions or errors on the part of the applicant. These errors may be minimized or avoided by the use of a citizenship document checklist.
When an individual is submitting their naturalization application, they should create a checklist of documents which are required by the application. The documents required will vary according to each individual’s application.
For example, if an applicant is married, the immigration department may require additional documentation related to the individual’s spouse. This may include the spouse’s birth certificate and their proof of residence for the past 3 years.
As an applicant completes their citizenship document checklist, they should check off each document that is requested as they turn them in and note whether or not they have been processed. The applicant should keep their list updated, as the immigration department will likely make additional requests throughout the process.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Naturalization?
It is essential to have the assistance of an immigration lawyer for any naturalization issues you may be facing or if you simply wish for assistance during the process. The naturalization process can be a momentous step in an individual’s life, as they obtain citizenship rights through this process.
If you need any guidance or assistance with the process, an attorney will be happy to help. Your attorney can assist you with each step and review all documents for errors as well as explain exactly what is necessary to complete the process. In addition, if there are any other legal issues or considerations which arise during the process, your lawyer can provide additional advice and representation as you need it.