Becoming a U.S. citizen is a dream for many immigrants in this country. U.S. citizenship bestows many rights and advantages while protecting you from the threat of deportation. If you are a green card holder, you may be eligible to apply for naturalization.
Because of the complexities involved in the application process, you should seek legal counsel from lawyers with a thorough understanding of immigration law. Your dream of citizenship is too valuable to move forward without skilled legal representation. At J. Sparks Law, PLLC you will benefit from working with a lawyer who is Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Immigration & Nationality Law.
Every year, countless green card holders seek citizenship through the naturalization process to enjoy the benefits of being a citizen.
As a U.S. citizen, you can:
Before you can apply for naturalization, you first must be a permanent resident. You can become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) or green card holder, as the status is popularly referred to, through employment if certain requirements are met. The requirements for obtaining an employment-based green card are as follows:
You can become a green card holder through family if you meet the following criteria:
Besides these two primary avenues of becoming a US permanent resident, there are other lesser commonly utilized avenues such as self-petitioning, diversity visa lottery, and investing significantly in the United States.
To successfully become a citizen through naturalization, you will have to meet a handful of requirements.
In general, you must be a lawful permanent resident for five years in order to apply for naturalization. You can apply 90 days before your five-year anniversary. For some, who obtained their residency through marriage to a U.S. citizen, an application for naturalization may be filed after three years if the applicant is still married to and residing with his or her spouse. Every applicant must demonstrate that they are a person of good moral character.
The naturalization process requires you to be at least 18 years old. You will need to pass a basic English test, a U.S. civics, and a history test, and be someone of good moral character.
You may be disqualified from naturalization if:
Some individuals acquire or derive citizenship automatically under certain laws. If you were born abroad to at least one U.S. citizen parent, you may already be a citizen. If you have a green card and one of your parents naturalized while you were under 18 years of age, you may automatically be a U.S. citizen. Many of the laws surrounding who is a citizen at birth or upon the naturalization of a parent are quite complex and require research into what law is applied at the time of the individual’s birth. These complex laws have changed frequently over the last century; however, an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney can find the answer to your citizenship questions.
Although many green card holders smoothly sail through the naturalization process, many others run into problems and even denials of their applications for citizenship. It is best to have help from an attorney who can identify and address any potential issues that might lead to a denial.
There are several reasons why an application for citizenship may be denied, but the most common ones are as follows:
The N-400, Application for Naturalization, requires that the applicant provides information about their criminal history if there is one. If the applicant has a criminal history, then the immigration examiner will review this criminal record before determining whether the application should be approved or denied. Although any criminal history is required to be provided in the application for citizenship, failure to provide it there does not mean the examiner will not find it.
Rather, what happens in the case of failure to disclose is the examiner will independently have on file all arrest and crime records of the applicant obtained through background checks which are routinely done after the applicant’s fingerprints are taken. If the applicant has a criminal history, the application will be denied and forwarded to immigration court.
There are certain things that could be done to take your criminal record off the table, but this would require working with a criminal defense attorney who can help in this regard. Some of the things the criminal defense lawyer can do involve having your record expunged or even having a new trial in your case if you had bad representation.
When an application for citizenship is reviewed, the examiner probes more than the content filled out in the application. The examiner will review the entire history of the applicant and the person sponsoring them for a green card, and if it is a marriage-based sponsorship, then the examiner will examine the file closely to make sure the marital relationship upon which the green card was issued was valid. In this case, the examiner will ask the applicant a series of questions about the marriage to make sure the marriage was genuine and not a sham. If they conclude the marriage was a sham, then they will deny the application on this basis.
This is one of the many reasons why it is important to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer before filing your application for citizenship. The lawyer will be able to ask you questions, review your documents and gather all relevant information and make sure all issues that may be raised during the interview are addressed before that.
The N-400, Application for Naturalization, warns that any applicant providing deceptive or untruthful information on the application will have their application denied. This will also be the outcome during the interview if the applicant is deceptive or tells lies during the interview. One must, therefore, be sure they are truthful in completing the application and completely avoid being deceptive.
Even when truthfully completing the application, one must be careful to make sure that the application is accurate and error-free. This is something everyone knows, but many applications are rejected or denied because they contain errors or are incomplete, and some of the errors, especially those involving dates can be viewed as fraudulent misrepresentations even though that is not the case.
In some cases, it is simply norms and customs of the native countries of the applicants that result in “errors” that are not really errors. For example, the formatting of dates is different in the United States than in other countries which start the date format with the day and not the month, as is the case for the United States. A person from a country where the day goes first can do so by habit only for that date to be wrong when being viewed by an American examiner. When preparing documents for filing for our clients, we look for details like this to make sure all paperwork filed is accurate and complete.
Failure to pay taxes is a common reason why applications for citizenship are denied. If one has an outstanding tax obligation, one should first make sure that this obligation is satisfied before filing an application for citizenship. The good thing here is the law does not require that one must clear their tax obligations before being approved for citizenship; rather, all that is required is for the applicant to show that they have entered into an agreement with the IRS on how to settle the outstanding tax bill. With a copy of this agreement, failure to pay taxes might not be an issue as the USCIS will accept the agreement as evidence of the applicant’s understanding of their basic responsibilities as a citizen.
English is the official language of the United States. Everyone applying to become a US citizen is required to demonstrate the ability to read, understand, and write basic English. For this reason, citizenship applicants must take and pass an English proficiency test. The USCIS provides material the applicant can study in preparation for taking the test, and these materials are available for free. If an applicant fails this test, their application for naturalization will be denied. Fortunately, most people who take the test pass it the first time, so it is mostly about preparation and practicing how to answer the questions which are commonly asked.
If you have the right immigration lawyer on your side, you can hopefully avoid denials. If your citizenship application was denied already, seek help from a lawyer who can identify whether you can appeal the decision.
It is vital to know what is expected when applying to become a U.S. citizen through the Naturalization process. The process can be time consuming and can cause uncertainty and anxiety.
At J. Sparks Law, PLLC, you will benefit from the extensive experience and skill of attorneys whose only field of practice is immigration law. We urge you to consult with our team for compassionate representation, always in the pursuit of a positive outcome.