I am often asked by clients what they need to do to become a citizen of the United States. This question has become increasingly common over the last year with the growing uncertainty surrounding immigration issues. In order to qualify to naturalize as a United States citizen you must meet the following:
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Be a lawful permanent resident (have a “Green Card”) for five years.
There are two caveats to the five year requirement:
- If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you only need to be a lawful permanent resident for three years prior to applying for naturalization.
- If you had refugee or asylee status, you do not need to wait the full five years of being a greencard holder prior to applying.
- Have good moral character.
Clients often want to know what being of good moral character means as it’s a broad term. Generally we look at whether there has been any involvement with the court system or involvement with the police. When applying you need to provide a background check for any county in which the potential applicant has lived within the last five years. We need to fully explore what, if any, encouters with law enforcement or the court system a potential applicant has had.
- Be able to speak, read, and write English at a basic level.
There are two exceptions to the langage requirements for older adults who have been in the country for a lengthy time period. You do not need to meet the basic language requirements if:
- You are 55 years or older and have had a green card for 15 years, or
- You are 50 years or older and have had a green card for 20 years.
- Be able to pass a test on U.S. history and government.
There are a total of 100 questions from ten questions are selected for an applicant to answer. Applicants have access to all questions and answers prior to their appointment in order to be able to study the potential questions they may face.
- Swear that you are loyal to the United States.
Prior to applying for naturalization always consult an experienced immigration attorney in order to discuss whether or not there are any red flags in your past that can hinder your naturalization application. We often come across the follow which can hurt your naturalization application. (please note: This is not an exhaustive list but simply examples of common issues that come up with naturalization cases)
- You made trips out of the United States for more than six months
- You claimed to be a U.S. citizen
- You moved to another country since getting your green card
- You voted in the United States
- You are in deportation or removal proceedings—or—you have been deported
- You haven’t filed your federal income taxes
- You haven’t paid child support for your child(ren)
- You committed fraud to get your greencard
- You have been arrested or convicted of a crime or you have committed a crime
- You lied or committed fraud to receive or to continue to receive public benefits
- You have been charged with committing domestic violence, child abuse, or child neglect
Contact our office at (919) 783-1260 to set up a consultation to determine whether applying for naturalization is right for you.