U.S. Citizenship has never been more valuable than it is today! The rights and privileges granted to U.S. citizens are often taken for granted, but with the images coming out of Afghanistan as the United States’ longest war ends, now is the perfect time to appreciate the many benefits of U.S. citizenship. Because in contrast to the humanitarian crisis playing out in Afghanistan, where millions of people are fearful of their safety and the future of their country, the United States is known throughout the world as possessing a government that is respectful of its citizens and their rights.
Below is some helpful information if you are considering applying to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. As you read through this article, and when you hear about Afghans desperately applying for Special Immigrant Visas or fleeing their homeland and potentially their families out of fear for their safety, please remember the many outstanding benefits that are only available to U.S. citizens.
The process of granting U.S. citizenship to a person born outside the United States is called “naturalization.” A person can only become a naturalized U.S. citizen after meeting several legal requirements and completing a rigorous application process.
What Is Naturalization?
Foreign-born residents who seek the privileges and responsibilities afforded to U.S. citizens must apply for citizenship or a certificate of naturalization.
It has never been a requirement for immigrants in the United States to apply for citizenship. Immigrants can become naturalized any time after their arrival in the United States so long as they meet the prerequisite residential period and other requirements specified in naturalization laws.
How Do I Become Eligible For Naturalization?
Currently, there are a number of requirements that you must meet to be eligible to be granted naturalized U.S. citizenship. Form N-400 will be approved by the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services if you meet the following criteria:
- Are at least 18 years old at the time you submit your application.
- Have been a green card holder for a minimum of 5 years.
- Have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the 5 years preceding the date you file your application.
- Have been continuously living within the U.S. for the last 5 years.
- Can read, write, and speak the English language.
- Have a basic understanding of the history and government of the United States.
- Have good moral character.
Do I Have To Take Tests?
Yes, all naturalization applicants are required to attend a personal interview and take a test. Different tests will be administered in the interview, and you are expected to show your ability to read, write, and speak in English. Additionally, you must have basic knowledge of U.S. history and government. Take a look at the required tests listed below.
You will be required to read one sentence aloud to show your English reading skills.
You will be asked to write a sentence to show your English writing skills.
An officer of USCIS will be assigned to you, and they will be the one to conduct an interview. The goal of the interview is to check if you can speak and understand English.
You will be asked a total of 10 questions. These questions will be about the U.S. government and U.S. history. Out of these questions, you need to answer six correctly to pass the civics test. You will get two chances to pass all of the tests administered. If you can’t pass a test during the first interview, you will get a second chance. A second interview will be scheduled for you to try again.
Can I Be Exempted From The Test Requirement?
You do not need to show reading, writing, or English speaking skills if you are any of the following:
- A lawful permanent resident who, at the time you filed your application, is over 50 years old and has been a green card holder for at least 20 years.
- A lawful permanent resident who, at the time you filed your application, is over 55 years old and has been a green card holder for at least 15 years.
Can I Get Derivative Or Automatic U.S Citizenship?
Statistically, only a small percentage of individuals derive U.S. citizenship at their birth, or acquire it automatically through another method. For further information, read up on acquisition of U.S. citizenship at birth and on acquiring U.S. citizenship automatically.
Can I Become Naturalized Through Marriage?
All foreign nationals are generally required to be lawful permanent residents of the U.S. for five years. On the other hand, it is possible for a person married to a U.S. citizen to apply for citizenship as long as you are a lawful permanent resident for at least three years.
Here are the requirements for the naturalization process of a person married to a U.S. citizen:
- As an applicant, you must be a lawful permanent resident for a minimum of 3 years.
- You and your U.S. citizen spouse (husband or wife) have been married and living in “marital union” for a minimum of 3 years.
- You have continuously resided in the U.S. for the last 3 years.
- Prior to the date the application is filed, you must be physically in the U.S. for at least half of the 3-year requirement mentioned above.
Marital Union Definition
Being married to a U.S. citizen while legally living as a permanent resident for at least three years does not automatically grant you citizenship. For USCIS to consider your application, you must be able to show that you and your U.S. citizen husband or wife are living in a “marital union.”
“Marital union” essentially means you and your spouse are both living in the same household. However, there are exceptions to this requirement and a practicing immigration attorney can provide you with a detailed assessment of whether you satisfy the “marital union” requirement.
You and your spouse must also be able to establish the validity of your marriage. By law, the marriage’s validity is determined by the law where the marriage took place, known as the “place of celebration rule.” In many instances, the marriage certificate is the primary evidence used to establish whether your marriage was performed legally and adequately.
Am I Eligible To Apply If I Have A Criminal Background?
Although minor offenses may not impact your application for a certificate of naturalization, the USCIS can initiate deportation proceedings if the offense is deemed a “deportable offense.” It is extremely important that you consult with an immigration law attorney before proceeding if you have a criminal background.
Next Steps To Applying For U.S. Citizenship
Without a doubt, the anticipation of applying for U.S. citizenship can be a very exciting and stressful time. Anyone who has ever had to go through the immigration and naturalization process can attest to the rigorous and strict process enforced by the USCIS.
If you are currently aspiring to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, play it smart and safe. Don’t jeopardize your chances or risk of losing your green card by making unnecessary errors on your application or by failing your naturalization test.
Before you apply on your own, eliminate the risk by consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer. Reeves Immigration Law Group has offices in many locations and a team of experienced attorneys ready to help you.