A person born in the United States is a United States citizen. Persons not born in the United States may still achieve citizenship if certain criteria are met. A person may be eligible for derivative citizenship through a family member. He or she may become a naturalized citizen if they have been a lawful permanent resident for a required time period.
At the initial consultation, Immigrants First always screens for derivative citizenship based on the alienage of parents and grandparents. If a person was not born in the United States and is not a derivative citizen, then we explore whether a person can naturalize if they have been a permanent resident for the requisite period of time.
For a consultation about becoming a U.S. citizen, contact Immigrants First.
Why Become a U.S. Citizen When Eligible?
It is a good idea to consider becoming a United States citizen (USC) as soon as eligible, especially if the United States is home. Why? Because any status less than that of a United States citizen renders a person vulnerable to deportation, especially for certain criminal offenses. There are also important benefits to be gained by naturalizing, not the least of which is the ability to vote, take certain jobs, remain out of the U.S. without worrying about abandonment of residency, and claiming certain benefits.
Applying for Naturalization: Potential Problems
Applying for citizenship is one of the most important immigration processes to undertake and should be treated seriously because it involves a high standard of review of a person’s background. Issues in a person’s background that may not have been noticed in the adjustment of status process will likely be caught in the naturalization process, such as any kind of fraud in the process of obtaining lawful permanent residency. A person can find themselves in removal proceedings instead of taking an oath for citizenship if not careful.
It is essential to speak with an experienced immigration lawyer before naturalizing if any of these potential issues may be present:
- A criminal record
- Marriage fraud
- Mistakes in obtaining the diversity lottery or adjustment process
- Tax fraud
- Good moral character problems
- Any number of other issues that may make the application more complex
Assistance with Naturalization Cases and Defending Denaturalization Cases
At Immigrants First we have a lot of experience with complex naturalization cases and defending denaturalization cases. We thoroughly review a person’s background before filing for naturalization and advise on the best strategy of whether to naturalize, wait, or never naturalize.
We have won complicated naturalization cases where there were serious criminal convictions, past fraud, and serious medical issues. One client had tried to naturalize with four prior lawyers and we were finally able to obtain the medical waiver necessary for her to naturalize because of how we prepared the case and our referral to an outstanding psychologist who prepared a good evaluation to back up the request for a medical waiver of the exam.
We are happy to help through this final and important immigration process and encourage potential clients to contact us for a consultation.
Criteria for U.S. Citizenship
Statutory criteria for citizenship, unless otherwise barred, from the USCIS website:
- Be 18 or older at the time of filing
- Be a Green Card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application for naturalization
- Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application. Students may apply for naturalization either where they go to school or where their family lives (if they are still financially dependent on their parents).
- Have continuous residence in the United States as a Green Card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
- Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
- Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
- Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
- Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law.