U.S. Citizenship is single-handedly the most important immigration benefit that the U.S. government may grant to an individual.
You may become a U.S. Citizen either by:
By birth, either within the territory of the United States or to U.S. citizen parents, or By Naturalization.
Good to Know: Children – Children born abroad of U.S. citizen parents derive citizenship from their parents and adopted children of citizen parents acquire citizenship. For more specific questions regarding naturalization of children please contact Beltran Brito LLP today.
The Steps to U.S. Naturalization
Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills certain general requirements.
The applicant must fulfill the following requirements:
Age – Applicants must be at least 18 years old. However, there are waivers, exceptions and special cases that may qualify if the individual is under 18 years of age.
Residency – An applicant must be a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for at least a five year period. Please see the “Good to Know” section for an exception to the rule.
Residence and Physical Presence – An applicant is eligible to apply for naturalization, if immediately preceding the filing of the application, he or she has resided continuously as a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. for at least 5 years prior to filing with no single absence from the United States of more than one year; has been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the previous five years (absences of more than six months but less than one year shall disrupt the applicant’s continuity of residence unless the applicant can establish that he or she did not abandon his or her residence during such period); has resided within a state or district for at least three months
Good to Know: Generally certain lawful permanent residents (LPRs) married to a U.S. citizen may file for naturalization after residing continuously in the U.S. for a minimum of 3 years and: The applicant has been married to and living in a valid marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse for all three years; The U.S. spouse has been a U.S. citizen for all three years and meets all physical presence and residence requirements; and the applicant meets all other naturalization requirements.
Good Moral Character – Generally, an applicant must show that he or she has been a person of good moral character for five years, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen, prior to filing for naturalization. An applicant can be permanently barred if they have: been convicted of murder, or if he or she has been convicted of an aggravated felony. Moreover, a person can be found to not have good moral character if during the last five years he or she:
- has committed and been convicted of: (a) one or more crimes involving moral turpitude; (b) two or more offenses for which the total sentence imposed was five years or more; (c) any controlled substance law, except for a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana ( d) two or more gambling offenses;
- is or has earned his or her principal income from illegal gambling;
- is or has been involved in: (a) prostitution or commercialized vice; (b) smuggling illegal aliens into the U.S.;
- is or has been a habitual drunkard;
- is practicing or has practiced polygamy;
- has willfully failed or refused to support dependents;
has given false testimony, under oath, in order to receive an U.S. Immigration benefit under the laws.
Attachment to the Constitution – An applicant must show that he or she will abide to the principles of the Constitution of the United States.
Language – Applicants for naturalization must be able to read, write, speak, and understand words in the English language. Applicants exempt from this requirement are those who on the date of filing: have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for periods totaling 15 years or more and are over 55 years of age; have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for periods totaling 20 years or more and are over 50 years of age; or have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects the applicant’s ability to learn English.
United States Government and History Knowledge – An applicant for naturalization must demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history and of the principles and form of government of the United States. Applicants exempt from this requirement are those who, on the date of filing, have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects the applicant’s ability to learn U.S. History and Government. Applicants who have been residing in the U.S. subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for at least 20 years and are over the age of 65 will be afforded special consideration in satisfying this requirement.
Oath of Allegiance – To become a citizen, one must take the oath of allegiance. By doing so, an applicant swears to: Support the Constitution and obey the laws of the U.S.; Renounce any foreign allegiance and/or foreign title; and Bear arms for the Armed Forces of the U.S. or perform services for the government of the U.S. when required though some exceptions may apply.