There are many rights, privileges, and benefits associated with being a US citizen. This is why every year thousands of people immigrate to this country seeking citizenship.

Citizenship can be acquired in a number of ways, including through birth; naturalization; or through derivation or acquisition from a parent after birth.

Citizenship through naturalization explained

Naturalization is the most commonly-opted method of applying for a citizenship for most immigrants. Almost one million people who are permanent residents in the US apply for citizenship through naturalization each year.

To be eligible for Naturalization, applicants must fulfill certain general requirements:

  • Applicants must be 18 years old or older; AND
  • Must be a legal permanent resident (“LPR”) in the US for the last 5 years or more; OR
  • Must be an LPR in the US and married to and living with an USC for the last 3 years or more, and the USC Spouse must have been a USC for the last three years or more.
  • Applicants who are serving the U.S. Armed Forces currently and have served for at least one year. (Applicants who will be filing their applications within six months of an honorable discharge may also apply.)

To begin the Naturalization process, the applicant must complete the Application for Naturalization. However, applicants must be aware of factors that can affect their eligibility for naturalization.

Factors which can affect eligibility for naturalization

Excessive time spent outside of the United States within the past three years (if applying as the spouse of a USC and the applicant has been an LPR for only three years) or within the past five years can affect an applicant’s eligibility to apply for citizenship.

Criminal convictions can affect your eligibility, depending on the crime you were convicted of, when the conviction occurred and the outcome of your criminal case. It is important to consult with an immigration attorney if you have ever been arrested and/or convicted of a crime before filing a naturalization application, because certain crimes/conviction make you automatically deportable and subject to removal proceedings. Having a criminal conviction on your record does not automatically mean that you are ineligible for naturalization, but it is important for you to be aware if it can. If your criminal record affects your eligibility for naturalization, your attorney can review the specifics of your case to determine whether you qualify for any waivers or other relief.

Permanent bars to Good Moral Character (GMC) include murder, aggravated felonies, and persecution/genocide/torture/severe violations of religious freedom. If you have any of these on your record, please consult with an attorney before filing any petition for naturalization or petition to renew your green card.

Conditional bars to citizenship include crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT), crimes with aggregate sentence of 5 or more years, controlled substance violations, incarceration for 180 days or more, false testimony under oath, prostitution offenses, human smuggling, polygamy, gambling offenses, being a habitual drunkard, failure to support dependents, adultery, and other unlawful acts.

There are a number of legal steps and procedures to be taken when navigating through the process of applying for a citizenship in the U.S. With help from the right legal counsel and a proper direction, you can ensure a relatively smooth immigration process.

If you require assistance with your immigration matters, please feel free to contact the Law Offices of Nerina Smart, PA.  We can be reached at (954)745-8052 or for a consultation.

Florida Auto Insurance- The importance of having the right coverage

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)- An Overview of Florida’s No Fault Insurance

The State of Florida requires all drivers to carry the basic Personal Injury Protection (PIP), also known as the “No-Fault” car insurance. This insurance protects the insured by paying for the treatment of injuries that the policy holder might suffer in a car accident. The insurance can be claimed irrespective of whose fault it is, and hence the term “No-Fault” insurance.

The PIP policy covers 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of the wages lost due to an accident. The PIP policy offers a maximum coverage of $10,000. If the policy holder fails to obtain medical treatment within the first fourteen days following an accident, then the PIP provider can limit coverage to $2,500.00. Additionally, the policy holder must have suffered an Emergency Medical Condition (EMC) to be afforded the full policy coverage.

When the injuries are significant and the PIP fails to cover the majority of the medical costs (let alone the wages lost) then it is typical to seek recovery from the at-fault party involved in the accident for the remaining damages including pain and suffering.

If the at-fault party does not have insurance or their policy is not enough to cover the medical expenses incurred, then the injured party may have to seek other sources for coverage of their losses. It is not uncommon for the at-fault party to not have Bodily Injury (BI) protection or not have enough coverage to cover the injured party’s losses. Quite often drivers who fail to carry BI coverage also tend to have no personal assets of value to cover the expenses of the injured party. In most cases, it would be pointless to pursue such parties and only end up with an uncollectable judgment.

Herein lies the importance of having uninsured/underinsured policy coverage especially in Florida where many drivers fail to carry adequate coverage or go “naked”, meaning they don’t carry any coverage at all.

How does the uninsured and underinsured motorist policy work?

The uninsured and underinsured motorist policy is a must-have in Florida where BI protection is not enforced. This means that a driver who is at fault might have the minimally required PIP only. But they fail to have the BI coverage which pays for the medical expenses of the person who sustained injuries due to the culprit driver.

The uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage works like a magic blanket of insurance protection in these cases. This plan takes care of all medical bills, treatments and surgeries, and also compensates for all non-economic damages such as emotional pain and trauma suffered due to an accident. It also takes care of any future wages that may have been lost, as well as medical expenses that might come up eventually.

What is the difference between Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist (UM) policy?

Uninsured motorist policy protects the victim in an occurrence by covering for their medical expenses. The “at-fault” driver is not usually held responsible by a liability insurance and chances are that he or she may not have enough assets to reimburse the medical expenses or loss wages suffered by the affected party. The same applies to underinsured motor policy. The only difference is that the “at-fault” driver has reduced insurance coverage but the coverage is still not sufficient to cover the injured party’s losses. If the injured party is covered by an UM policy, then they can seek compensation from the carrier of the UM policy for their losses.

In Florida, where Bodily Coverage is not mandated, the uninsured and underinsured motorist policy can be a boon for victims of road accidents, especially those who require surgery to correct their sustained injuries and fully recover.

If you were injured in an auto accident, it is best to consult with an attorney to ensure that you are able to recover for your losses from all available sources. Please feel free to contact the Law Offices of Nerina Smart, PA.  Our main office is conveniently located in Central Broward, but we also serve the entire State of Florida for your personal injury losses. We can be reached at (954)745-8052 or for a consultation.


News post 03/18/16


Fears that if Donald Trump wins his race for President, immigrants will face unbearable restrictions have prompted a huge jump in naturalization applications according to a recent CNN article. While there is usually an increase in applications for citizenship during election years to increase the voting population, this year’s peak seems solely due to one candidate…The Donald!

If you want information on applying for citizenship or residency (Green Card), please feel free to contact the Law Office of Nerina Smart, PA.  Our main office is conveniently located in Central Broward, but we also have offices in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties to serve the community.

CNN Article: