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Naturalization or Citizenship issues often look easy but often they contain traps for the unwary. Individuals born in the United States acquire number of legal rights and privileges that are not given to persons in many other countries around the world. It has always been a dream to many individuals to obtain United States Citizenship. Many permanent residents choose to further formalize their relationship to the United States each year. They are motivated by loyalty and love of their adopted country, as well as an interest in the benefits they will receive as citizens. For those of us who were not born in the United States, this process is known as Naturalization.
Naturalization is the process by which US Citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Among the qualifications for Naturalization include:
- Permanent residency of an applicant (green card holder) who continuously resides in the U.S. for a least five (5) years (three years for most spouses of U.S. Citizens) while continuously residing in the state of application for at least three (3) months, and physically present in the U.S. for at least two and half (2 ½) years in the last five (5) years [one and Half (1 ½) years in the last three (3) years for most spouses of U.S. Citizens).
- Passing the English Test (reading, writing, and speaking), have a basic command of U.S. History, have good moral character, continuously reside in the U.S. from the date of filing your naturalization application until actually becoming an U.S. Citizen, be at least 18 years old, and be attached to the principals of U.S. Constitution.
When applying for naturalization on the basis of marriage to a U.S citizen, the following documents are required:
- Evidence that your spouse has been a U.S citizen for the last 3 years, your current marriage certificate, proof of termination of all prior marriages of your spouse (divorce decree, annulment, or death certificate), documents referring to you and your spouse.
- If you have taken any trip outside the United States that lasted 6 months or more since becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident, you must also submit evidence that you continued to live, work, or keep ties to the United States, like an IRS tax return transcript or an IRS certified tax return listing tax information for the last 5 years or rent or mortgage payment and pay stubs.
- If you have been arrested or detained by any law enforcement officer to any reason, and there were no charges filed, then send an original official statement by the arresting agency or applicant court confirming that no charges were filed. If you have ever been arrested or detained by any law enforcement officer for any reason and there were charges filed, then send an original or court certified copy of the complete arrest record and disposition for each incident.
If you are applying for a disability exception to the testing requirement, send an original Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, completed in less than 6 months ago by a licensed medical or osteopathic doctor or licensed clinical psychologist.
Here is the general procedure for naturalization:
1. Complete the N-400 Application for Naturalization. The application can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
2. Complete all your documents. Have a copy Permanent Resident Card copied (front and back), have a two identical colored photos and a check or money order ($680) payable to the DHS. Note: Photos: 2×2 with your name and Alien Registration number in pencil on the back of each photo.
3. Mail your N-400 application, Permanent Resident Card copy, photos, and filing fee
4. Get fingerprinted
5. Attend an interview
6. Attend the citizenship ceremony.
You will take the Oath of Allegiance and hand in your Permanent Resident Card. You will be given a Certificate of Naturalization, officially making you an American citizen. The Certificate of U.S. Naturalization (form N-550 or N-570) is a document issued by the United States government as proof of a person having obtained U.S. citizenship through naturalization, which is the legal process of obtaining a new nationality.
This certificate contains the following: date of naturalization, personal information of the naturalized citizen including name, signature, place of residence, former country of nationality and other demographic information. This must also contain and order by the Attorney General that the person be admitted as a United States citizen, an attestation from an immigration officer, and the seal of the Department of Justice.
A brief note on the naturalization test: You must be 18 years old and have maintained a green card with lawful permanent residence for at least five years to be eligible to take the test. And a good moral character and an appreciation for the U.S. Constitution are required for the exam. This is oral and, as stated above comprises of both the English proficiency and civics examinations. Note: Skip the English test if you are older than 50 and have been a legal resident at least 20 years or if you are older than 55 and have lived here legally at least 15 years. Take the civics test in the language of your choice if you fit either of those categories. Take a simpler civics test in the language of your choice and skip the English test if you are older than 65 and have lived here legally at least 20 years.
Naturalization History & Government Study Guide
Naturalization Reading Vocabulary
Naturalization Writing Vocabulary
Sample Retainer Agreement
Note: All questions, answers and a complete study guide may be found in the U.S. Citizenship Test Study Guide. The guide is designed to help applicants study and prepare for the test. It also answers some questions regarding the naturalization process. This can be used privately or as a textbook in a preparatory course for the test. And this is also written in simple English so everyone may understand, including those who are not yet fluent in the said language.
Sample U.S. Citizenship Test Questions
What are the colors of our flag?
How many stars are there in our flag?
What color are the stars on our flag?
What do the stars on the flag mean?
How many stripes are there in the flag?
What color are the stripes?
What do the stripes on the flag mean?
How many states are there in the union?
What is the 4th of July?
What is the date of Independence Day?
Independence from whom?
What country did we fight during the revolutionary war?
Who was the first president of the United States?
Who is the president of the United States today?
Who is the vice-president of the United States today?
Who elects the president of the United States?
Who becomes president of the United States if the president should die?
For how long do we elect the president?
What is the constitution?
Can the constitution be changed?
What do we call a change to the constitution?
How many changes or amendments are there to the constitution?
How many branches are there in our government?
What are the three branches of our government?
What is the legislative branch of our government?
Who makes the laws of the United States?
What is congress?
What are the duties of congress?
Who elects congress?
How many senators are there in congress?
Facts About United States Citizenship
- Children born in the United States are automatically U.S. citizens;
- Children born abroad to a U.S. citizen is in most cases a U.S. citizen if both parents are citizens or if one of the parents has lived in the U.S. before the child was born;
- Foreigners that wish to wish to become U.S. citizens must complete the naturalization process (the process of becoming a U.S. citizen);
- Different eligibility requirements must be met including language ability, residency requirement, passing the Citizenship Test, have good moral character, and more;
- Keep reading for information about how to become a U.S. citizen!
Benefits Of U.S. Citizenship
- You may apply for United States passport;
- You may not have to renew your green card;
- You may not have to file a form when you change your address;
- You may re-enter the U.S. more easily after trip abroad;
- You may vote in elections;
- You may run for public office;
- You may apply for government jobs;
- You may help your family members come to the U.S.;
- Your unmarried children can move to the U.S.;
- You will be able to get Social Security benefits even if you do not live in the U.S.;
- You can live in other countries and still hold U.S. citizenship;
- The U.S. allows dual citizenship;
- You may get financial aid from the government;
- Immune from deportation/removal from the United States.
Rights And Responsibilities Of A U.S. Citizen
As an immigration lawyer, I get bombarded with questions like, “What are my rights as an American Citizen?” from individuals who have just acquired their U.S. Citizenship. And of course, it is my joy giving them information regarding the freedom and opportunities they have always been dreaming of.
- The right to vote in federal elections. Isn’t it nice to take part in choosing the leaders that will mold their country and their communities? He or she can now enjoy the right to free and democratic elections.
- The right to serve on a jury.
- The right to bring family members in the United States. Being a US citizen lets him or her enjoy the advantage to sponsor more types of family members while the waiting period for the family members is shorter, too.
- The right to obtain citizenship for children born abroad.
- The right to travel with a U.S. passport.
- The right to live anywhere in the United States without losing their status. U.S. citizenship status is permanent. He or she does not need to go through all the hassles of renewing their status.
- The right to run for federal office. He or she can run for public office and become an elected representative, helping shape the laws and country’s future.
- The right to become eligible for federal grants and scholarship. This is one of the benefits and opportunities of being an American citizen.
- The right to apply for any job in the U.S., even government jobs.
- The right not to be deported.
But with these rights, as a new U.S. citizen bring with some important responsibilities, as well. And it is always a duty to give something back to his or her adopted nation by fulfilling these responsibilities:
- To support and defend the Constitution.
- To help contribute to the U.S. and its history and culture.
- To serve the country when required.
- To participate in his or her local community.
- To respect the rights, opinions and beliefs of others.
- To participate in democratic processes.
- To respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.
Dual citizenship means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. It could also be that a person is a citizen of three or more countries. But one must know that each country has its own laws regarding dual citizenship. This is a process that happens when a person becomes a citizen of another country, in addition to his country of birth.
The United States government does not encourage dual citizenship due to the problems that may arise from it like: double taxation, traveling with two passports, family issues, military service issues and other issues that may lead to confusion about what country’s laws to follow.
If you are a foreign individual who becomes American, you may (or may not be able to) keep your foreign original citizenship. Before you become a U.S. Citizen, a good piece of advice is to contact your country’s consulate or embassy and ask whether it allows dual citizenship.
U.S. Citizenship For Military Personnel And Their Dependents
If you are a non-U.S. Citizen U.S. Military, you may apply for U.S. Citizenship based on your military status. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) provides the steps a U.S. Military personnel would need to take if they are pursuing U.S citizenship for themselves or for their dependents.
As explained by USCIS, naturalization applications submitted by a non-U.S. Citizen military personnel are taken care of in a timely and efficient manner while showing exemplary customer service, maintaining the integrity of the immigration system and the security of the process. USCIS gives so much importance to all the sacrifices a non-U.S citizen who is a member of the U.S. Armed forces and their families. That said, all members of the U.S armed forces and their dependents (spouses and children) are eligible for citizenship, with overseas and expedited processing, under the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Non-U.S. Citizen members of the U.S. Military Armed Forces, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and certain components of the National Guard and the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve; Dependents (spouses and children) of military personnel.
General Requirements For Applicants For Naturalization (During Peace Time) Must—
- be aged 18 or older;
- have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least 1 year and, if separated from the U.S. armed forces, have been separated honorably;
- be a permanent resident at the time of examination on the naturalization application;
- be able to read, write, and speak basic English;
- have a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics);
- have been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the law;
- have an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law;
- have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years and have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application, UNLESS the applicant has filed an application while still in the service or within 6 months of separation. In the latter case, the applicant is not required to meet these residence and physical presence requirements.
General Requirements For Applicants For Naturalization (During Periods Of Hostilities) Must–
- have served honorably (for any period of time, even just 1 day) in active-duty status, or as a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, for any amount of time during a designated period of hostilities and, if separated from the U.S. armed forces, have been separated honorably;
- have been lawfully admitted as a permanent resident at any time after enlistment or induction, OR have been physically present in the United States or certain territories at the time of enlistment or induction (regardless of whether the applicant was admitted as a permanent resident);
- be able to read, write, and speak basic English;
- have a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics);
- have been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the law;
- have an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law. Note: There is no minimum age requirement for an applicant under this section.
Service members need not pay for the charges in filing or biometrics fees because it is provided for free. To apply for naturalization, the service members must complete the following applications: (a) Form N-400, Application for Naturalization; (b) Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service (establishes periods of honorable service certified by the military).
Note: Every military installation should have a designated point-of-contact (POC) to handle your application and certify your Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service (Form N-426). You should inquire through your chain of command to find out who this person is so they can help you with your application packet.
The assigned POC will assist you with the following: (a) certification of Form N-426; (b) information about fingerprinting and how to comply with the fingerprinting requirement; (c) submitting the N-400 package to the Nebraska Service Center (NSC) at the following address:
The Nebraska Service Center,
P.O. Box 87426,
Lincoln, NE 68501-7426
Once the application has been received, the NSC will start reviewing the application and send it to the USCIS office closest to your application. You may also provide in your cover letter that is attached to your naturalization your preference as to where you wanted to be interviewed, if you have one.
To be able to determine your eligibility for naturalization, the USCIS office will set a date to interview you. Once your application for naturalization has been approved, USCIS will then inform you of the date you will be taking the oath of allegiance.
Citizenship For Spouses & Children Of Military Members– The spouse of a military member are eligible for expedited naturalization or for overseas processing. While the children of a U.S. Military members deployed abroad may be eligible for overseas processing.
Expedited Naturalization For Spouses Of Military Members– Generally, the applicant must: (a) be age 18 or older; (b) establish that his or her U.S. citizen spouse is deployed abroad as a service member; (c) be present in the U.S. pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence (green card holder) at the time of examination on the naturalization application; (d) be present in the U.S. at the time of naturalization; (e) declare in good faith upon naturalization an intent to reside abroad with the U.S. citizen spouse and to reside in the U.S. immediately upon the citizen spouse’s termination of service abroad; (f) be able to read, write, and speak basic English; (g) have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics); and (h) have been, and continue to be, a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law.
Overseas Naturalization For Spouses Of Military Members– Generally, to be eligible for a spouse of service members to naturalize abroad without traveling to the United States for any part of the naturalization process, the permanent resident spouse of a member of the U.S armed forces must:(a)be authorized to accompany the service member abroad pursuant to the members official orders; (b) be residing abroad with the member in marital union; and (c) meet the requirements of either Section 316(a) or 319(a) of the INA at the time of filing the naturalization application, except for the residence and physical presence requirements.
Overseas Naturalization For Children Of Military Members–This allows children of service members to become naturalized U.S. Citizens without having to travel to the United States for any part of the naturalization process. They are not required to be present in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission.
Citizenship Through Parents
Even though a child is born outside the United States, if at least one parent is a U.S citizen at the time of his or her birth, the child “acquires” the American citizenship. In a like manner, the children of these children may also acquire such US citizenship by birth.
The laws affecting the determination of the citizenship of a child born outside the Us but of American parent or parents have changed over time, several times. With this, you need to inquire into the law effective on the date of the child’s birth, and that of the parents if the grandparents are US citizens.
As a short guide, below are the time periods when Citizenship through parents have changed:
- prior to May 24, 1934
- May 25, 1934 to January 12, 1941
- January 13, 1941 to December 23, 1952
- December 24, 1952 to November 13, 1986, and
- November 14, 1986 to present.
Naturalization of Parents (“Derivation”)
Children whose parents are naturalized may “derive” the US citizenship automatically, given that they have green cards and are under the age of 18, also living with their parent at that time. Becoming a citizen of the U.S. in this manner has a special benefit: A child naturalized to become a U.S citizen in this manner does not have to participate in a naturalization ceremony.
The laws governing the naturalization of children have changed over the years. The determination of one’s citizenship is dictated by the laws existent at the time of the parent/s’ naturalization. Laws affecting the same differ during these periods:
- parents who naturalized before May 24, 1934
- parents who naturalized between May 24, 1934 and January 12, 1941
- parents who naturalized between January 13, 1941 and December 23, 1952
- parents who naturalized between December 24, 1952 and October 4, 1978
- parents who naturalized between October 5, 1978 and February 26, 2001, and
- parents who naturalized between February 27, 2001 and the present.
You Need An Immigration Lawyer For Your Naturalization Proceedings
Being a citizen of the United States is a privilege. With thousands of non-US citizens applying for naturalization and with the strict laws governing the grant of this privilege, you need the assistance of an immigration lawyer to determine the best means and ways for you to be naturalized.
At The Gambacorta Law Office, we help clients through the Naturalization proceedings, making sure that they obtain favorable results on their application.
We understand how the Naturalization laws work, and we have an in-depth knowledge of the applicable rules and legislations to help you be naturalized. We begin by understanding and getting to know your circumstances and identify the best naturalization proceeding for you or your family.
The application and interview process involved in your Naturalization proceeding may also be best undertaken with the assistance of naturalization lawyers. We know the process by heart; not to mention being amply familiar with the forms and proceedings involved in Naturalization.
We are dedicated to assisting clients in their Naturalization proceedings every step of the way.
Talk to us to know more about how we can make Naturalization easier for you.