Top Ten Questions on Naturalization
1. How long must I be a resident before I can apply?
If you are married to a US citizen, then it is 3 years from the day you became a resident. If you are not, then it is 5 years from the date you received your residence. You can apply 3 months before. The process takes between 8-12 months.
2. Do I have to live in the US all that time?
You must prove that you have physical presence in the US for 30 months unless you are the spouse of a US citizen currently living with the spouse, and then you only need 18 months. This requirement must be met at the time of the interview, so you must be residing in the US or meet the test at the time of your interview, NOT THE TIME OF FILING. People often don’t understand the concept of the abandonment of residence. Physically having a green card doesn’t mean you’re qualifying for it. If you did not live in the U.S. for 10 years, you are no longer considered a resident, even if you have a valid green card.
Anyone who leaves the U.S for more than 8 months is presumed to have abandoned their green card, unless they are working for a U.S. Corporation or government agency abroad. So, you could qualify for citizenship based on physical presence, but end up not getting naturalized and losing your green card.
Careful! There is a specific provision, which allows people who wish to live outside the U.S. to retain their residence; it is called a Re-entry Permit. Also, if you are leaving the U.S. because your U.S. spouse is working for a U.S. corporation abroad you can apply for expedited naturalization, after you have live in the U.S. as a resident for 1 year.
3. Who must register for selective services?
Anyone who becomes a lawful permanent resident prior to his or her 26th birthday must register. There is a bar to becoming a citizen if you failed to do so, and have no excuse. If the Selective Service contacted you they will have proof. You can exculpate yourself and get a letter recognizing any misunderstandings that occurred. However, if you simply failed to register then you cannot apply for citizenship until you are 31, as the failure to do so is considered lack of good moral character for 5 years.
4. Am I barred if I have a criminal conviction?
Yes, if it is a felony. You will also be deported, as you are no longer eligible to be a lawful permanent resident. However, if it is a misdemeanor then you must present certified copies of the court order, the arrest record, the sentencing guidelines and all evidence that you completed the terms of your release. If the case was expunged and you do not have a copy YOU MUST REOPEN THE CASE.
5. What is the standard for good moral character?
A lot of people think the officer will only review the last 5 years, but they are WRONG! The issue of good moral character is not limited to review of the past five years. They can look back over your entire life. If you have been incarcerated in the last five years you cannot apply.
6. What about a DUI?
A lot of people think that a DUI will bar them, but this is not the case. The questions are:
· Is it a felony?
· If there are a number of them does it show a pattern as a habitual drunkard. If you have several it is important to document your rehabilitation and that you have sought treatment. Usually a psychological evaluation is required.
7. Is child support an issue?
Yes, if you have a child and are divorced, all enforceable child support agreements must be met. Otherwise you will be denied. No deadbeat dads. However, if the child is out of wedlock, or the parents have some special agreement through a foreign divorce then credible proof of complying with child support this will satisfy the officer.
8. Dual citizenship: a myth to derail?
You can have dual citizenship and vote in your country under U.S. law. You need to look at the law of your country.
9. Can I take the civics test in another language?
You must be able to take the oath of allegiance and be cognizant of its meaning. There is a waiver for medical conditions, but it is very strict. You are only exempt from taking the naturalization test in English if you have 20 years of residence and are over 50 years old or 15 years of residence and are over 75.
10. Derivative citizenship of children under 18 based on the naturalization of one or both parents.
A child under 18 who is a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) and residing in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of one parent is considered a U.S. Citizen upon the naturalization of one parent. Stepchildren are not eligible. The child can directly apply at the U.S. passport agency.
This article is solely a partial explanation of all the issues related to the topic of this newsletter, and is not to be considered legal advice. Persons interested in obtaining more information should consult with their legal counsel to obtain explanations of all issues addressed herein.