Becoming a United States Citizen Through Naturalization

Many immigrants look forward to becoming a United States citizen. For many, it represents a significant step in achieving the American Dream. But for those who aren’t born as US citizens, the path to citizenship isn’t always easy or quick.

Naturalization is the process in which immigrants can become US citizens. Naturalization has its own set of rules and requirements. The law firm of Crotty Saland PC has immigration attorneys who can assist you through the naturalization process and help you obtain US citizenship even if you have been arrested in the past.

What Are Some Benefits of US Citizenship?

US citizens enjoy the following rights and privileges:

  • The right to vote
  • The ability to receive government assistance
  • Eligibility for running for public office
  • The ability to travel to and from the United States for any period of time
  • Protection from deportation
  • Can obtain a US Passport
  • Consular protection when traveling or living overseas
  • Further opportunities to sponsor a relative who seeks immigrant status to come to the United States
  • The right to live and work in the United States
Eligibility Requirements for US Citizenship through Naturalization

The first step is a major one, and it requires the individual seeking US citizenship be a Permanent Resident, also known as holding a Green Card. Besides being a Green Card holder, the individual must also:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Held a Green Card for at least five years.
  • Lived in the United States for at least 30 months within the last five years.
  • During the last five years (or three years if married to a US citizen), the individual did not leave the United States for a trip that lasted one year or more.
  • Resided in a district or state for the last three months where the individual is applying for citizenship.
  • Be able to read, write and speak basic English.
  • Understand the fundamentals of how the US government works, as well as US history.
  • Be of good moral character.
  • Take an oath of allegiance to the United States.

Note that that the above eligibility requirements are not absolute and there are some exceptions. For instance, a Green Card holder doesn’t have to be a Permanent Resident for five years, only three, if they are married to a US citizen. Additionally, the English ability requirement doesn’t apply to applicants who have a disability that will prevent them from learning English, are over 50 years of age and have lived in the United States for at least 20 years since becoming a Permanent Resident, or are over 55 years of age and have lived in the United States for at least 15 years since becoming a Permanent Resident.

There’s also an exception to the 18 years of age requirement. Individuals under 18 years of age can become US citizens through military service Under Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Steps to Become a US Citizen through Naturalization

Once it’s determined that an individual is eligible to become a US citizen, they must complete Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. In addition to filling out Form N-400, all individuals will need to include:

  • A copy of both sides of the individual’s Green Card
  • The $640 application fee and
  • The $85 biometric services fee

Depending on the specific circumstances of the applicant, additional documents may be needed.

After the N-400 and required documents have been submitted to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the applicant will attend a biometrics appointment (although some applicants may be not be required to make this appointment) where fingerprints will be taken. The purpose of this appointment is to run a background check on the individual.

Next, the applicant will be interviewed by a USCIS officer who will test the applicant’s knowledge of US history, government and the English language.

After the interview, the applicant will receive a decision. There are three decision possibilities. The N-400 application will be approved, continued or denied.

Assuming the applicant’s N-400 application is approved, he or she will attend a naturalization ceremony and take the oath of Allegiance to the United States. Sometimes this approval comes right after the interview, with the naturalization ceremony scheduled that same day. Other times, the approval will come later, with the naturalization ceremony scheduled for a later date.

If the N-400 application is continued, it probably means the applicant failed the interview. This is often because he or she didn’t understand enough English or know enough about US history and government. When this occurs, a second interview can be scheduled. It can also mean the N-400 application is missing documents; the applicant will be provided an opportunity to submit those.

If the N-400 application is denied, the applicant may appeal the decision by completing Form N-336, Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings under Section 336 of the INA. If the N-400 application is still denied after this appeal, a second appeal option is available, by filing a petition with a US District Court.

Criminal Records and Naturalization

In lieu of dodging the obvious, an arrest is compromising to your naturalization and citizenship process, but a conviction can bar your continued presence, future admissibility and pursuit of citizenship. Those crimes involving drugs, firearms, domestic violence and other offenses are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Commit a crime such as an Aggravated Felony or Crime Involving Moral Turpitude, then at a minimum you will have significant problems with both the criminal justice system and the Federal authorities as it relates to your immigration. What’s worse, a conviction can end all what you have worked to achieve in the United States. Simply, you have come too far and worked too diligently to let an allegation of criminal wrongdoing put an end to your life in the United States.

Crotty Saland Can Help You

There will be many hurdles, but you need not clear them alone. If pursued correctly, you can achieve what you seek. No, there are no guarantees, but the immigration attorneys and naturalization lawyers at Crotty Saland PC can assist you through what can otherwise be a very intimidating process. Our immigration lawyers stand ready to help you to that you can call the United States your home.

Call the New York immigration lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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