Naturalization is the process of becoming a U.S. citizen for a foreign born person. Individuals usually have to have been previously admitted as a Lawful Permanent Resident for the requisite certain period of time.
There are five major reasons why individuals generally apply for naturalization:
- Acquire the right to vote and/or hold a public office position.
- Gain employment in some government jobs that are available only to U.S. citizens.
- The ability to live outside the U.S. for extended periods of time without losing U.S. permanent residence rights.
- Avoiding deportation as a precaution in the event of changes in laws, public policy changes or conviction of crimes.
- Gain certain tax benefits which apply to U.S. citizens and not to permanent residents.
In order to qualify for naturalization an individual must meet certain criteria. These include the following:
- One must have resided in the U.S. for at least five years continuously as a permanent resident, or three years if an individual obtained his or her green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen and remains still married.
- The individual must have resided in the United States for 30 months during the past 5 years. Residence must also be physical presence.
- The applicant must be a person of good moral character during the statutory period of required residence (5 years or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen).
- The applicant must pass a U.S. government and history test.
- The applicant must be able to speak, read, write and understand basic English.
- The applicant must express allegiance to the United States government.
Recent changes to the law have, in some cases, made obtaining or proving citizenship easier. However, the process of naturalization can often be a trap for the unprepared, resulting not in citizenship for the applicant but rather in removal or deportation. How? Old convictions, child support irregularities, voting in the U.S., jury service, misleading information on previous immigration applications, and even one’s travel history can cause the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to deny a naturalization application and order the detention and removal of the applicant.
Processing times vary depending on where you live. Subsequent to the application, an interview is scheduled and upon passage of the interview and a determination of the individual meeting the conditions, a swearing in oath is attended and the individual becomes a U.S. citizen.
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