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Naturalization is the process by which a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) becomes a U.S. citizen. In order to naturalize, a lawful permanent resident has to meet certain requirements. Our law firm assists clients in both straightforward applications and those involving more complicated issues. If you are interested in applying for citizenship, we can assist during the entire process (from filing of the application to representation at the interview) or just during the interview, both of which include a pre-interview prep session.
Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is one of the most important decisions in an individual’s life. If you decide to apply to become a U.S. citizen, you will be showing your commitment to the United States and your loyalty to its Constitution. In return, you are rewarded with all the rights and privileges that are part of U.S. citizenship.
You may become a U.S. citizen either at birth or after birth. Individuals who are born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and individuals born in certain territories or outlying possessions of the United States are citizens at birth. Also, individuals born outside the United States may be citizens at birth if their parent or parents were citizens at the time of birth and other requirements are met.
Additionally, you may become a U.S. citizen after birth either through your parents, known as “derived” or “acquired” citizenship, or by applying for naturalization on your own.
The Benefits of Citizenship
- A citizen has the right to vote for elected officials at the federal, state and local levels who shape the policy of the government.
- Only a citizen has the right to hold most city, state or federal offices, and the right to hold certain federal, state and city jobs.
- Citizens can leave the U.S. and live in another country for as long as they want and travel may be easier for U.S. citizens to certain countries.
- Citizens can petition for more family members to come to the U.S. with shorter waiting lists for green card sponsorship.
- Citizens cannot be prevented from re-entering the U.S. or removed (removed or deported).
- Citizens do not have to worry about renewing their green cards every ten years.
- Citizens who retire abroad receive full Social Security benefits (whereas lawful permanent residents receive only half their benefits) and citizens may be subject to fewer restrictions on estate taxes.
- Certain countries, including Ireland and the United Kingdom, recognize “dual citizenship” permitting naturalized U.S. citizens to maintain their citizenship of birth and original passport.
- Citizens are eligible for more public benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Food Stamps, and certain types of educational scholarships and financial aid.
- In some cases, children under 18 years of age can naturalize automatically with their parents.
The Basic Requirements
- You must be at least eighteen (18) years of age. Minor children under 18 years of age are eligible for citizenship when their parent(s) naturalize(s).
- You have been a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) for at least five years or you are a lawful permanent resident for at least three years AND have been married to a U.S. citizen for that time period AND continue to be married and living with that U.S. citizen for last three years.
- You must have been a resident of the state from which you are applying for at least three months.
- You have “good moral character” – last five (three) years
- You must be able to speak, read, write and understand basic English (elementary reading, writing, and understanding of the English language) unless you are at least fifty (50) years of age and have been a lawful permanent resident for at least twenty (20) years; or you are at least fifty-five (55) years of age and have been a lawful permanent resident for at least fifteen (15) years; or you have a permanent physical or developmental disability or mental impairment making it impossible for you to meet the English language requirement.
- You must be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history and principles of government unless you have a permanent physical or developmental disability or mental impairment making it impossible for you to meet the civics requirement (N-648, must include full and complete description of diagnosis, how disability prevents him from learning or demonstrating knowledge of English and/or U.S. History), and doctor’s conclusion whether applicant is able to learn or demonstrate knowledge of the same); or you qualify for “special consideration” because you are at least sixty-five (65) years of age and have been a lawful permanent resident for at least twenty (20) years (a test of 10 out of 25 civics questions in the person’s language- need only answer 6 questions correctly).
- You must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one-half of the five years or one-half of three years if applicant is spouse of U.S. Citizen) and you have not left the U.S. for more than six months on any one trip and you intend to permanently reside in the U.S. (Exception if absence of 6 months to 1 year)
These are the basic requirements for naturalization for most applicants. Other requirements may affect you depending on individual circumstances. Also, there are exceptions and waivers for some of the naturalization requirements.