So, you have been a Lawful Permanent Resident (i.e., green card holder) for the past five (5) years (or three (3) years if you are married to the U.S. Citizen spouse who petitioned for you), and you are now contemplating becoming a U.S. Citizen and whether or not it is the right decision for you.
The short and simple answer is “yes”, U.S. Citizenship may be right for your if you plan to remain and live in the United States permanently. However, for some Lawful Permanent Residents, the answer is slightly more complex for a variety of reasons.
About U.S. Citizenship and the Naturalization Process:
U.S. Citizenship can be obtained in several different ways, such as through birth in the United States, being the child of a United States citizen (even if you were born in another country), or through a process known as Naturalization.
Naturalization is the legal process through which a citizen of a foriegn county can become a citizen of the United States. In order to be naturalized, the foreign individual must first meet certain criteria to apply for U.S. Citizenship. Then, the individual must complete an application, attend an interview with the USCIS, and pass an English and a Civics test (unless the meet an exception to this requirement). Upon successful completion of these steps, the foreign individual must take an Oath of Allegiance to finalize the Naturalization process and officially become a citizen of the United States.
Applicants may apply for Naturalization within ninety (90) days before meeting their five (5) or three (3) year residency requirement. Before you can apply for Naturalization in the United States, you’ll need to meet certain eligibility requirements. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides the following requirements for Naturalization applicants:
- The applicant must be least eighteen years old;
- The applicant must have been a lawful permanent resident of the United States for at least five (5) years before applying for Naturalization (or three (3) years if you are married to a United States citizen);
- The applicant must have been physically present in the United States for at least five (5) years (or three (3) years) at the time of application.;
- The applicant must be able to understand and speak English (unless they qualify for an exception); and
- The applicant must be of good moral character.
After filing the Naturalization application, the USCIS will schedule your biometrics appointment, at which time your fingerprints will be taken (typically 1-2 months after filing your application). You will then receive another appointment from the USCIS for your Naturalization interview and testing. Subsequent to the successful completion of your interview and testing, you will attend a swearing-in ceremony (final step), where you will take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
Applying for U.S. Citizenship with a Criminal Record?
A common issue faced by many green card holders that are ready to apply for U.S. Citizenship is that they are concerned about their applications being denied based on a prior criminal charge or arrest. That is because, in order to qualify for U.S. Citizenship through the Naturalization process, the law requires that you establish that you’ve resided in the United States for a specific period of time (i.e., oftentimes 3 or 5 years), and that during that time, you have been and continue to be “an individual of good moral character.”
If you have been convicted of breaking the law, whether it be a misdemeanor, felony, or even as simple as receiving a traffic ticket for which you’ve paid a fine, the USCIS can consider that conviction in deciding whether or not to approve or deny your application based on the “good moral character” grounds. As a result, it is oftentimes in the green card holder’s best interest to submit their application for Naturalization after three (3) or five (5) years has passed since the incident or date of conviction.
However, postponing your application is not the only option. Your criminal history may fall under an “exception”, be excused or forgiven through a pardon, or be resolved through alternative post-conviction relief options. In many cases, it is difficult to predict in advance how the USCIS will react to your criminal record. Under these circumstances, it is highly recommended to work with an Experienced Immigration Attorney.
If you are interested in applying for U.S. Citizenship, or if you are on the fence about it and would like to gather additional information, please contact the Law Office of Olivia C Cummings to schedule a detailed and informative consultation with our experienced Attorney. We will guide you through the entire process and answer any questions that you may have.
Contact our office today via phone at (772)236-0148, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
You can also visit our website at www.cummingslawpractice.com.
Attention: This article was written to provide general information, which should not be construed as legal advice. If you are seeking advice on a specific legal matter, you are encouraged to contact our law firm directly and schedule a consultation with our Immigration Attorney for a thorough review of your case.