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What You Should Know If You Are Considering Applying For Citizenship

Becoming a citizen of the United States has many advantages over being a lawful permanent resident. It means you are no longer subject to deportation, you can vote, and if you petition for an immediate relative, they are not subject to Visa caps, meaning there is always a visa available for them to come to the US.

Surprisingly, there are some individuals who naturalize automatically without notice from the Government that they changed status. This applies to children who come to the United States as Lawful Permanent Residents if their parents are citizens or become citizens before the child turns 18. Under this circumstance the child automatically becomes a citizen when he or she turns 18. This process is automatic and no notice of it is sent to the person becoming a citizen. Often times, these individuals believe they are Permanent Residents, because the Permanent Resident card or “green card” was the last documentation of status they received from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS. Later when these individuals apply for citizenship USCIS denies their application and does not refund the filing fees. These individuals are already citizens, which is why they cannot apply for citizenship, rather they need to apply for documentation of their citizenship instead.

Some Of The Basic Requirements Are Time Requirements

For individuals married to US Citizens they must show continuous presence in the US for 3 years, for other permanent residents it is 5 years. You will need to document any foreign travel during the five years prior to filing for naturalization. International travel for six months to one year can cause a presumption of abandonment of residency, this presumption can be rebutted. Stays of one year or longer are considered an interruption of residency causing the time requirement to start over.

Good Moral Character

To become a Citizen of the United States, you must demonstrate the you have “Good Moral Character”, there are a number of factors that Immigration Officials will look to in order to determine the character of an applicant, the applicant of course, has the burden to prove that they have good moral character. Factors considered include, but are not limited to;

  • Criminal Background, arrests, and traffic citations
    Any arrests or convictions can make it difficult to become a citizen, and some crimes can render you deportable. Sometimes filing to naturalize brings previous crimes and offenses to the attention of immigration officers who were previously unaware that a person has become deportable and the applicant is deported rather than granted citizenship. Even petty offenses and minor traffic violations must be resolved and taken care of to be considered a person of good moral character
  • Child Support
    Any unpaid child support is considered a sign of bad character.
  • Claiming to be a US Citizen/ Voting
    You cannot falsely claim to be a citizen on any government form, this includes registering to vote, or voting in a US election, such actions can bar you from becoming a citizen.

With the help of a good attorney some of the issues that arise from the good moral character can be rebutted. A competent attorney can help compile evidence to show that a person has reformed, or that a person has positive things they have done to counteract the negative things in their past.

Use of Public Welfare Benefits / Public Charge

Recently the Department of Homeland Security published a rule disqualifying welfare recipients from adjusting status to become citizens, depending on the amount of welfare received within a 36 month period, this rule will go into effect October 15, 2019. For more information about this rule and how it could affect you see: Public Welfare Assistance and how it can affect your eligibility to adjust status or extend your time in the United States starting October of this year.

English Language and American Civics Test

All citizens are required to pass a basic English test and a civics test. The English test involves speaking, understanding and writing basic English. Free study materials for the English test can be found here:

The Civics test requires applicants to answer at least six of the ten questions correctly. Questions for the civics test are pulled from a tree of 100 questions. Free study materials for the civics test can be found here:

Some people may be exempt from one or both citizenship tests depending on their age and length of time they have been in the US as a permanent resident or if they have a disability.

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