The process of a foreign-born person becoming a U.S. citizen is called naturalization. After obtaining lawful permanent resident status, citizenship is the next step for green card holders living and working in the United States. Naturalization and citizenship is the ultimate goal of anyone who wishes to settle in the United States.
Here are several of the advantages to becoming a naturalized citizen:
- Have the right to cast a vote for local, state and federal elections, and also to be elected to public office.
- Gain the right to be employed in certain government jobs that are only available to U.S. citizens.
- Have the right to live outside the U.S. for extended periods without losing U.S. residency status or rights.
- Gain protection from being deported if convicted of certain crimes.
- Benefit from tax benefits and public assistance programs that are available to U.S. citizens but not permanent residents.
Requirements for becoming a naturalized citizen
Here are the basic requirements for applying for naturalization:
- Be at least 18 years of age at the time of application.
- Maintain continuous presence in the United States as a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) for at least five years, or three years for those married to and living with a U.S. citizen spouse. Please note that maintaining continuous presence means that the applicant has not taken any trip outside the U.S. for longer than six months over the five-year period.
- Be a resident of the state or district represented by the local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office where you intend to apply. This means staying in the same state or district for at least three months prior to applying.
- Be an individual of “good moral character,” e.g., to be an honest and respectable person who follows state and federal laws.
- Demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking English; and have some knowledge of U.S. history and government. This will be assessed during the naturalization interview, and by English reading and writing tests and a citizenship exam.
- Males who lived in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 26 must register for military service.
- Attend a public Oath of Allegiance Ceremony and swear allegiance to the United States.
For many immigrants to the United States, the journey to naturalization and citizenship can be long and challenging. However, with proper representation and guidance from an immigration attorney, it is entirely possible to become a naturalized U.S. citizen with all the rights and privileges that entails. Please Contact Us for a free attorney consultation to see if you are eligible to apply for citizenship.