Congratulations! You are now thinking about becoming a U.S. Citizen! That is one of the major steps to achieving the American dream. You’ve worked hard to contribute to American society, so you deserve achieving that coveted step in your life. That is my job, to help my clients get to that goal. And it is oh so rewarding to witness the final step, the sworn oath as a U.S. citizen.
To achieve this goal, you must prepare before hand to ensure you meet the eligibility criteria and you can provide your all the required documentation to support your application. I’ll take you step by step through what you should be doing.
STEP 1: DETERMINE YOUR ELIGIBILITY FOR U.S. CITIZENSHIP
You must meet all eligibility criteria before applying. Here is the lowdown:
– Be 18 years of age or older (some exceptions)
– Hold a current and valid lawful permanent resident status (green card holder)
– Have resided in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 5 years; 3 years if the green card was obtained by a current valid marriage to a U.S. citizen; green card was obtained under a VAWA marriage to a U.S. citizen, or green card holder had conditions removed with an I-751 petition based on battery and extreme hardship caused by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse
– Physical presence in the United States for at least half of the 3 or 5 years of the lawful permanent resident status
– Be a person of good moral character
– Be able to speak, read, write and understand the English language
– Have knowledge of U.S. government and history ( You will have the opportunity to study for the test).
– Be willing and able to take the Oath of Allegiance
If you meet all of the above requirements, then GOOD NEWS! You are likely ready to apply for naturalization. You can apply 3 months before the 3 or 5 year anniversary of your lawful permanent resident status.
BUT NOT SO FAST! There are some red flags you must look out for. You must consult an attorney if you:
– Travelled outside of the US for 6 mths or more in a year.
– Committed actions that may affect your Good Moral Character. For example, certain criminal convictions.
– Are currently on parole or probation.
– Have a conviction for Murder and Aggravated Felony crimes.
– Have failed to support a child.
– Have failed to file taxes.
All of the above red flags of serious legal implications and often lead to an outright denial of a citizenship application. This is why I strongly recommend an attorney to closely review your circumstances to see if there is any way that you can become eligible or remain eligible despite the circumstances. For example, your citizenship may still be approved with a criminal arrest or conviction on your record. BUT an approval despite an arrest or conviction depends on the type of crime. This usually requires detailed legal research to determine how much of a problem the criminal record will be and to advocate to the immigration officer making the decision.
STEP 2: PREPARE YOUR APPLICATION FOR U.S. CITIZENSHIP
First, review the naturalization application in detail. The forms are available for free on the USCIS website. The most important aspect of this preparation step is to determine the required documentation that you need to attach to the application. Such documentation includes a copy of the front and back of your current valid permanent residence card, evidence of continuous residence in the United States, evidence of past and current marital status, any evidence of arrests or convictions, child support and paid past due taxes, evidence or explanations regarding selective service, marriage based evidence. There may be more evidence depending on your particular circumstances.
STEP 3: SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION FOR U.S. CITIZENSHIP
Don’t forget your filing fees, biometric fee and proper mode of payment. Your application will be rejected if either the payment or the payment method is incorrect. Keep a replica copy of everything you submit to the USCIS.
STEP 4: PREPARE FOR YOUR FINAL U.S. CITIZENSHIP INTERVIEW
Once again, once you get your interview appointment letter, you should gather all the copies of documents you have already submitted with your application along with your state identification, permanent resident card and passport.
The most important thing in the process is to make sure you identify any potential problems with eligibility and AVOID MISTAKES ON YOUR APPLICATION!
As always, the above should not be considered legal advice, so consult an attorney to address your individuals facts and circumstances.