US immigration can be quite a complicated subject matter. Unless you are part of the immigration services, specifics of immigrant visas, the green card process, consular processing, adjustment of status, and removal of conditions are only vaguely known. This article aims to shed light on the basics of US citizenship. What you will read below are information that aspiring citizens of the United States must look into if they want to be more familiar with the immigration process involved.
Applying for citizenship is not easy. With the prestige and privileges of becoming a citizen of the United States is a complicated and tedious and application process. A foreigner who aspires to obtain citizenship must deal with numerous immigration forms and prepare various supporting documents. The immigration forms that one must fill out are to be filed with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
On top of these, a foreign national who is eligible for citizenship and proceeds with his or her application must deal with the waiting period. USCIS processing times are known to be lengthy and uncertain.
United States citizenship comes with both rights and responsibilities. As such, a citizenship application should never be taken lightly. Individuals who are planning to apply to gain citizenship must first think it through. Specifically, one must be aware of how he or she will benefit from US citizenship, and if he or she is willing to go through the entire application process.
An individual of a different nationality who becomes a United States citizen gets to enjoy actual permanent residency. Unlike a green card holder, one who has become a US citizen gets the right to vote and may vote in both federal and state elections. When compared to a foreign-born green card holder, an immigrant who was able to successfully obtain citizenship could also travel to and even reside abroad a lot easier.
A citizen of the United States could also extend certain benefits to certain relatives. Under relevant family immigration laws, approved citizenship papers may help in processing the immigrant visas of family members living abroad. There is generally a higher chance for alien relatives of United States citizens to immigrate and be granted green cards. If all goes well, they may even eventually qualify for citizenship. While petitioning certain family members is also possible through a permanent resident card, there are more limitations and processing often takes a longer period.
A citizenship application involves several criteria, with the length of lawful permanent residence being one of the most commonly discussed.
Unless an individual was able to get a green card through asylum or falls under the categories of military personnel or refugees, at least five years of lawful permanent resident status is required. Furthermore, immediately before the actual citizenship application, he or she must have resided for five continuous years in the United States. This means being physically present for at least half of this period and not spending more than a continuous year outside the country.
As specified in relevant immigration law, there are other citizenship requirements that an individual must meet. Age is one. A foreign national must be 18 years old or older to be eligible to apply for citizenship. Those who want to become citizens of the United States must also be willing to take an oath of allegiance and state belief in the principles of the United States Constitution. Good moral character, often shown by a clean criminal record and other documentation, is also necessary when qualifying for citizenship.
Keep in mind that seeking citizenship status is not risk-free. When you apply, the USCIS will look very closely into your immigration status. An application will open your entire history for review by the United States government, and this includes previous petitions you have made.
An example of this scenario is an individual found to have acquired a green card through marriage fraud. Even if he or she was already granted and has been enjoying the legal permanent resident status for years, such can be taken away. The fraud would likely then be used as grounds for deportation.
While becoming a citizen of the United States has several advantages, remember that obtaining citizenship is a lot more complicated than it seems. Contact our law firm, Luis F. Hess, PLLC, to consult with a reliable immigration attorney. For questions on your application or the citizenship process, give us a call at (281) 626-5359.