THE NATURALIZATION PROCESS-BECOMING A UNITED STATES CITIZEN (“USC”)

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 nsmart@smartlawpa.com for a consultation.

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