After being a lawful permanent resident/green card holder for years, you may be ready to become a U.S. citizen. The process is not as simple as filling out an immigration form, and taking the naturalization test during an interview at your local United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. While these are important steps in your journey to naturalization, immigration law is complex and should not be taken lightly.
Do I Qualify for U.S. Citizenship?
Before paying filing fees, gathering documents, and spending considerable time on the citizenship application, make sure you qualify first. In some circumstances, you may already be a U.S. citizen based on your ancestry. It is best to consult a qualified immigration lawyer to evaluate your case and explore your options.
To be eligible for naturalization, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing, except if you are on active duty in the U.S. military;
- Have been a green card holder for a certain period of time; (In most cases, this period is 5 years but if you are applying based on your marriage to a U.S. citizen, then it is 3 years. Special rules apply to veterans and active duty military members);
- Have lived within the state or USCIS district, that you are a resident of, at least 3 months before filing;
- Have been physically present in the U.S. for a required period of time. (Generally, the required period is the same as the period for which you have to be a green card holder: 3 or 5 years. Special rules apply to active duty military and veterans);
- Have continuous residence in the U.S. for a required period of time; (Trips of 6 months but less that 1 year may disrupt continuous residence which you can overcome, if you can show that you maintained employment in the U.S. or did not have foreign employment, your immediate family members remained in the U.S., and you continued to own or lease a home in the U.S. Trips of 1 year or more require an approved Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes or the continuous residence requirement is broken. You will have to re-establish continuous residence for the required period, to be eligible.)
- Demonstrate good moral character; (criminal activity and arrests, even if the case was dismissed, weigh negatively against good moral character. Consult an immigration attorney if this is your situation.);
- Support the U.S. Constitution;
- Read, write, speak and understand basic English and be able to pass the civics portion of the citizenship test (Exceptions apply for certain disabled applicants and senior citizens with qualified residence); and
- Take an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. (Some applicants may qualify for a modified oath).
How a Naturalization Attorney Can Help You?
Attorney Fletcher has helped hundreds of applicants from various countries realize their dreams of becoming U.S. citizens. She has represented clients from every continent in the world with their immigration applications.
At the Fletcher Law Office, we accept citizenship cases from all 50 states and U.S. territories. We are available in- person, via phone, e-mail and videoconference. We offer full-service representation in U.S. citizenship matters. We handle the whole case, from start to finish, including document preparation, interview preparation and attorney appearance at the interview. We even conduct a mock exam with you on the citizenship test. Reach out to us at 561-507-5772 for a one-on-one consultation. Our clients are our number one priority.
U.S. Citizenship FAQs
No. U.S. citizenship does not expire and does not have to be renewed. However, if an applicant misrepresents himself on the U.S. citizenship application or any previous immigration applications, the government could attempt to denaturalize him.
- Two recent passport-style photographs (if you reside overseas);
- A copy of the front and back of your green card; and
- A copy of your current marriage certificate, divorce decree, annulment decree or death certificate of your former spouse;
These documents must be submitted at the time you file the N-400 citizenship application. You will bring other documents such as your passport and copies of your tax returns to the naturalization interview.
Yes. Owing taxes does not automatically bar you from becoming a U.S. citizen. You must demonstrate to the government that you are a person of “good moral character,” which includes filing and paying your taxes on time. You may be able to overcome the delinquency by filing late tax returns and by entering into a payment plan with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the state or the local government to which you owe taxes and making the payments on time.
It depends. The N-400 naturalization application specifically asks, “have you ever failed to support your dependents….” You must be able to answer this question truthfully. Child support delinquency can be overcome by catching up on the payments and asking your ex to write an affidavit about how you made amends. If you willfully failed or refused to support you dependent child during the 5-year period before you applied for U.S. citizenship, you will have to show extenuating circumstances that contributed to that decision.
Generally, a single arrest will not prevent you from getting U.S. citizenship but you may want to wait until 5 years have passed, after the case was dismissed, before applying. Applying earlier may impact the “good moral character” requirement. If you entered into a plea agreement where you had to do community service, pay fines, take random drug tests, attend an anger management class, etc., and the case was dismissed once you completed these requirements, this could be considered a conviction for immigration purposes. Applicants in this position could exercise wisdom by seeking the advice of an experienced immigration attorney before applying for U.S. citizenship.
Unfortunately no. You must wait 5 years from the date you became a lawful permanent resident. You may apply 90 days early, before the 5-year period comes. Even if your U.S. citizenship application, based on your marriage to your U.S. citizen spouse, was pending and he/she passes away during the process, you cannot go forward. You should withdraw it and reapply when you become eligible.