So You Want to Be a U.S. Citizen? | West New York Immigration Law, Real Estate Law and Family Law

So You Want to Be a U.S. Citizen?

So You Want to Be a U.S. Citizen? by Laraine Schwartz Esq.Naturalization is the process by which a Permanent Legal Resident (green card holder) may  become a citizen of the United States.

If you are a green card holder and you are interested in applying for citizenship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have held your green card for at least 5 years (unless you are married to a United States citizen — see below).

  • You must be at least 18 years old.

  • You must have resided in the U.S. for over 30 months within the last 5 years.

  • You must be able to read, write, and understand basic English. (Exception: Applicants who have had their green cards for at least 15 years and are 55 years old, or have had their green card for 20 years and are 50 years old, are permitted to take the citizenship test in their native language.)

  • You must be knowledgeable about U.S. history and government.

  • You must have good moral character.

If you are a green card holder who is married to a U.S. citizen and are interested in applying for naturalization, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have held your green card for at least 3 years.

  • You must be at least 18 years old.

  • You must have been in a legally-recognized marriage with your U.S. citizen spouse for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of your filing for citizenship.

  • You must have resided in the U.S. for over 18 months within the past 3 years.

  • You must be able to read, write, and understand basic English. (Same exception as above applies.)

  • You must be knowledgeable about U.S. history and government.

  • You must have good moral character.

All who apply for citizenship must fill out and submit application N-400. After submitting the application to U.S.C.I.S., biometrics – which includes fingerprints – are taken and submitted to the law enforcement database to assess good moral standing and determine if there is a history of ANY criminal arrests. Inform your lawyer of all prior arrests and provide original court dispositions of the outcome, either a dismissal or a conviction.

Important Note: All court documents must be the original dispositions with a raised seal.

As with statutes governing deportability, if certain crimes had been committed while a Legal Permanent Resident, all arrests need to be evaluated as to when they occurred, the penalties involved, and the actual crime which occurred to determine if you are eligible for naturalization.

When assessing an applicant’s background for moral character, the U.S.C.I.S. reviews the following:

  • Proof that all required taxes from the last five years have been paid

  • Crimes that carried a penalty greater than a year in prison

  • Proof that the applicant is not in arrears on any child support payments

  • Periods of imprisonment

  • Men aged 18-31 need to prove they have registered with Selective Service before age 26

  • A consistent pattern of criminality

Problems regarding the above list may be reason for denial to become a United States citizen. It is critical that you reveal every relevant detail in your past to your immigration attorney.

At the interview for naturalization, you agree to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and give up all rights to foreign potentates and other heads of state, and that you are willing to bear arms or serve in non-combatant areas for the United States. Assuming you pass the test, you will then attend a naturalization ceremony where you will take the Oath of Allegiance. In Newark, we are very fortunate to be in a pilot program in which the oath ceremony is held on the same day as the interview.

All of my clients who have earned citizenship are very proud to be Americans. They have worked hard and devoted much time to become a part of this great country. They have been paying taxes and contributing to the economy – and now will have the right to vote. They are proud to call the United States their home.

Larraine Schwartz, Lobbying for Immigration Reform

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.
Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law, PC
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