U.S. Naturalization Lawyers

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 What Is Naturalization?

In legal terms, naturalization refers to the immigration process in which a person becomes a United States Citizen. This process is the only way in which a person can become a United States Citizen if they were not born a U.S. citizen, or if they did not acquire citizenship immediately after they were born. It is important to note that only a person who has a permanent visa, which is known as a green card, can apply for naturalization.

In some cases, naturalization can be a lengthy and complicated process. This is largely due to the fact that the applicant is required to submit various forms and documents in order to prove their eligibility.

A person is considered to be a U.S. citizen by birth if they were born within the boundaries of the United States. This includes territories such as:

  • Guam;
  • Puerto Rico; and
  • The Virgin Islands.

Additionally, people who are born abroad may be declared U.S. citizens at birth if both of their parents are U.S. citizens at the time of their birth. This may also apply if at least one of their parents lived in the U.S. at some point during their lifetime. Another instance in which an individual may be a U.S. citizen at birth would be if one of their parents is a U.S. citizen, subject to additional requirements.

After five years of being a permanent resident in the United States, a person can apply to become a citizen by completing the Application for Naturalization Form 400. However, it is important to note some of the legal considerations associated with completing and filing the application. Some examples of this include, but may not be limited to:

  • Criminal Record: A naturalization applicant must possess good moral character. There is no clear definition of good moral character for the purpose of an immigration proceeding, but the term has been interpreted to mean that your behavior meets the moral standard of the average citizen in your community. Because of this, customs and expectations that would be considered good moral character can differ according to locality. Generally speaking, a person with a criminal record such as felony charges or multiple convictions will likely have trouble becoming a citizen;
  • Immigration Fraud: An applicant should be careful to avoid misrepresenting their status, or committing fraud during the immigration process. Any misrepresentations made during the application process can lead to criminal charges and/or rejection of the naturalization application; and
  • Residency Requirements: One of the main eligibility requirements is for the applicant to physically reside in the country for a specific amount of time, prior to applying for citizenship. This amount of time may vary based on why the person has been residing in the country. An example of this would be how a student may have different residency requirements than a person who resides in the country as a doctor.

Do I Need To Wait Five Years Before Beginning The Naturalization Process?

Whether a specific person actually needs to satisfy the five-year residency requirement before beginning the naturalization process depends on that person’s specific circumstances. A legal permanent resident can file for naturalization before completely satisfying the five-year waiting period if they are married to a United States citizen; a permanent resident who is married to a US citizen can apply for naturalization only three years after receiving their green card.

Additionally, anyone who arrives in the United States as a political refugee can apply for naturalization approximately four years after receiving their green card.

It is important to note that in general, every applicant must meet specific eligibility requirements, including but potentially not limited to:

  • Being 18 years old or older;
  • Residing in the United States on a full-time basis, for at least two and a half years;
  • Residing in the state or jurisdiction in which they filed for citizenship for at least three months prior to filing;
  • Not have resided outside of the United States for more than one consecutive year after becoming a permanent resident; and
  • Intending to make the United States their primary and/or permanent home.

How Has COVID19 Affected The U.S. Naturalization Process?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a notable effect on the United States naturalization process. There are temporary changes in place which have been made by the USCIS in response to the pandemic. Some examples of such changes include, but may not be limited to:

  • Additional health and safety precautions at physical USCIS facilities;
  • An automatic 60 days extension from the original due date for Requests for Evidence (“RFEs”), Notices of Intent to Deny (“NOIDs”), and other such responses; and
  • An extra 60 days from the decision date to file an I290B Notice of Appeal or Motion, an N-336 Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings, and Motions to Reopen an N-400.

Because of the pandemic, there will most likely be delays in receiving and processing naturalization applications for the foreseeable future. Additionally, copies of specific signatures will be accepted in place of original signatures.

Some temporary changes have also been made to naturalization ceremonies. The ceremony will be considerably shorter than usual, and applicants will receive a flyer with links to videos they can watch online which would generally be shown during the ceremony.

Unless the applicant has a disability and requires the assistance of another person, no other individuals will be allowed to accompany the applicant to the ceremony. Regularly visiting the USCIS website for updates on COVID-19 related changes will keep you informed.

What Else Should I Know About United States Naturalization?

There are many benefits to naturalization, some of which include:

  • The right to register and vote;
  • The ability to hold a United States passport; and
  • Being able to serve on a jury.

If an applicant is serving with the United States Armed Forces, they may apply for citizenship if they fulfill the required criteria. Certain conditions must be met for a person to qualify as a member of the United States Armed Forces; however, they may be exempt from satisfying the required residence and physical presence obligations. Additionally, they may be exempt from paying the naturalization filing fee.

If a person is denied naturalization, they can appeal and request an administrative review of their applications. This process includes a hearing with an immigration officer, and the details of the process as well as the paperwork requirements, Form N-336, are disclosed in the denial letter. Additionally, a denied applicant may be able to reapply at a later date.

Although they will have already turned in a full application, they are still required to submit a new application form, as well as pay the application fee and retake their photographs and fingerprints.

Once a person becomes a naturalized citizen, they are required to uphold specific responsibilities as pledged to in the Oath of Allegiance. The Oath of Allegiance is the final step to citizenship. Under the Oath, all applicants must promise to:

  • Surrender allegiances to other countries;
  • Support and defend the United States Constitution as well as United States laws;
  • Swear their allegiance to the United States; and
  • Serve the United States when required to do so.

Do I Need An Attorney For United States Naturalization?

If you are considering immigrating to the United States, or would like to pursue naturalization, it is in your best interest to work with an experienced and local immigration attorney.

An immigration lawyer will be best suited to helping you understand the process, file necessary paperwork, and appear at any necessary hearings. Additionally, your immigration lawyer will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, should any issues arise.

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