U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization
One of most people’s goals who live in this country is to eventually become a U.S. citizen. This status changes your stature in this country because once you naturalize or acquire U.S. citizenship you no longer have the privilege of residing in this country rather the right to enjoy all the freedoms this great country has to offer.
While the aspiration of citizenship may seem straightforward, there are many things to consider before applying to make sure that you truly are eligible and that by applying you do not end up suffering negative consequences due to a not so perfect past.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CITIZENSHIP AND NATURALIZATION?
Most people use the terms naturalization and citizenship interchangeably; however, while similar they can mean different things. A person who naturalizes has to apply for citizenship, while a person who holds citizenship has acquired the same either through birth in the U.S., derivative status through a parent or acquisition at birth abroad.
WHAT ARE THE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR NATURALIZATION?
To apply for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen, you must submit form N-400 and:
- Be at least 18 years of age at the time you file the application;
- Have been a lawful permanent resident for the past three or five years (depending on which naturalization category you are applying under);
- Have continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
- Be able to read, write, and speak basic English;
- Demonstrate good moral character;
- Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government;
- Demonstrate a loyalty to the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and
- Be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance.
If you meet the above requirements and have filed your form N-400 the next step is a biometrics/fingerprints appointment so that immigration officials can run a background check before your final interview. Next comes the naturalization interview, which consists of an English language test to assure you have a basic understanding of the English language, a U.S. civics test consisting of 10 questions and lastly a review of your N-400 application. If all goes well, then there is a possibility you can be scheduled that same day for your oath ceremony or they may have you come back another day for the oath ceremony. The majority of the time you will know where you stand as far as the results of the application; however, on occasion an immigration officer may not be able to make a decision on your case due to missing information, documentation or a review of a criminal past.
CAN I GET CITIZENSHIP IF I WAS ARRESTED OR CONVICTED OF A CRIME?
Despite the fact that a person has a criminal history does not prevent them from applying and being approved their citizenship/naturalization. However, if you do have a criminal past, even if you were not convicted, it is highly recommended you seek the help of a Naturalization Attorney who has expertise in “crimmigration” to ensure your criminal past will not affect not only the citizenship/naturalization process but also the current status you hold.
When an applicant for citizenship/naturalization has been convicted of an offense, even a misdemeanor, within 5 years preceding the date of their application an immigration officer may deny the application based on lack of good moral character grounds. Even if there was no conviction and it was just an arrest but the applicant has a history of the same conduct they may still deny the case based on lack of good moral character. Where it really gets complex is when an applicant has a crime that can potentially place them in deportation proceedings. Sometimes the applicant will not know they have a problem because they either haven’t traveled or they have renewed their green card without consequences and believe there is no issue with their case. Nevertheless, certain offenses can result in a denial of the N-400 application and the applicant being placed in deportation proceedings before an immigration judge.
Attorney Mendez has ample experience in this field and can review your criminal history to determine whether there are any risks in proceeding forward with your application. Moreover, you always have the option of having an experienced immigration attorney such as Attorney Mendez attend the N-400 interview with you to ensure your rights are adequately preserved.
CAN I GET CITIZENSHIP THROUGH MY PARENTS?
Acquiring citizenship through one’s parents is very much possible, but there are a few caveats. First, if your parents are not citizens and later naturalize you have to prove that you were lawfully admitted as a permanent resident prior to the age of 18 and continue to reside in the U.S. If one of your parents was a citizen at the time of your birth and you were born abroad then you may be eligible for what is called a Certificate of Consular Report of Birth Abroad and thus acquire citizenship through your parent(s). In order to obtain proof of your U.S. citizenship one must have their parents go to the U.S. embassy in the child’s home country and request same before the child’s 18th birthday. There are some nuances with regards to the foregoing option, so it is important you seek the counsel of an experienced Citizenship Attorney to see if citizenship via acquisition is applicable to your case.
Citizenship/Naturalization is the ultimate American Dream and getting there is not always as simple as filing an online application. As noted above several factors can make or break your opportunity to obtain the goal of U.S. citizenship. For a consultation with Attorney Mendez concerning your ability to naturalize or acquire citizenship, please contact us at 407-250-3333.