What Is US Citizenship Through Naturalization?
US citizenship through naturalization is the process by which a person who is a foreign national obtains US citizenship.
What Are Eligibility Requirements For Naturalization In The United States?
There are various eligibility requirements. The first is that you have to be over 18 at the time of filing.
The second is that you have to have been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years, although there are some exceptions that can allow people who have been residents for three years to obtain naturalization.
The third is that you have to show that you have lived for at least three months in the state or USCIS district where you apply. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security that processes naturalization and other benefits through immigration.
The fourth requirement is that you must demonstrate continuous residence in the United States for at least five years immediately preceding the date of filing the naturalization application. There are also some exceptions that can change that requirement to three years depending on how you became a lawful permanent resident.
The fifth requirement is to show that you have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the last five years immediately preceding the date of filing your application.
The sixth is that you must be able to read, write, and speak basic conversational English. This means that you have to understand questions that are asked of you, and you must be able to respond in English with certain exceptions.
The seventh is that you have to have a basic understanding of civics.
The eighth is that you must be a person of good moral character.
The ninth and final requirement is that you have to demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the US Constitution. Those are the eligibility requirements.
If you became a lawful permanent resident through marriage to a US citizen, you don’t have to wait the full five years. In this situation, you can apply for US citizenship at the three-year mark, but the other criteria still apply. For instance, if someone became a lawful permanent resident through their US citizen spouse and then left the country for four months to visit their family, came back and stayed here for a period of time, and then left the country again for a significant period of time, they wouldn’t be able to meet the 30-month requirement. There are only 36 months in a three-year period, so you would only be able to leave the country for a total of six months during that time if you wanted to qualify.
The good moral character requirement, also known as GMC, is for a lifetime. There are things that can make you permanently ineligible to become a naturalized citizen, such as regular criminal activity including DUIs, some domestic violence charges, and so on. As long as nothing like that has happened you should be able to become a naturalized citizen, and even if you have had some issues you may still be able to qualify if you’ve completed the term of probation or imprisonment at least five years before filing your application.
Being able to demonstrate continuous residence is similar to the 30-month requirement. If you leave the US for more than a certain period of time you can begin to break your continuous residence, and generally that period of time is six months. In effect, that is now the eligibility standard for being a permanent or continuous resident in the United States for the five years prior to applying for naturalization.
There is another significant pitfall in that if you have left the United States of America for more than a year without first asking permission from the US government, you can effectively abandon your permanent resident status. You may be able to get around this pitfall if you can prove that living outside the country was not something you had control over. For example, let’s say I visit my mother in Mexico and she gets very ill and I have to stay there and take care of her for longer than a year. If I can prove that I had to stay in Mexico to take care of my mother, the US can waive the abandonment and decide that I am still a lawful permanent resident of the United States. However, it could still make me ineligible to become a US citizen through naturalization for a greater period of time.
There are some exceptions to the English requirements as well. If you are over 50 and have been a resident for more than 20 years, then you can take the citizenship examination in your own language. If you have been a resident for 15 years or more and are over the age of 55 you can take your naturalization test in your native language. Lastly if you are over the age of sixty five and have been a resident for more than 20 years you not only get to take the naturalization application and test in your native language but you’re given an easier form of the test.
For more information on US Citizenship Through Naturalization, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (505) 407-0066 today.