How to Qualify for Citizenship

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Obtaining U.S. citizenship, or naturalization entitles a person to the rights, protection, and responsibility that citizenship ensures.

There are several avenues available to those who want to commit to life and liberty as an American citizen. For example, as a U.S. citizen, you’ll have the ability to sponsor your family members and employees for legal permanent residence. The path to U.S. citizenship can be a lengthy, emotional process. U.S. immigration law is notoriously complex. But, with proper legal guidance, you’ll be able to look forward to the joy, relief, and hope that U.S. citizenship promises when you finally swear the Oath of Allegiance at your naturalization ceremony.

Nassim Arzani Esq. and her team at American Law Center has a proven track record of helping clients navigate the many legal hurdles that stand between a hardworking immigrant and citizenship. Contact her office to set up an appointment and get started on your path to the American dream.

About Naturalization

Generally, the first step towards citizenship is obtaining a Green Card and becoming a legal permanent resident. However, the rest of the process will vary, depending on whether you naturalize as the spouse of a U.S. citizen, as the child of a U.S. citizen, or through honorable service in the U.S. military. Each of these paths to naturalization has different requirements and stipulations that may prove difficult, depending on your circumstances.

However, once you’ve become a U.S. citizen, you’ll enjoy the right to:

  • Vote and become an elected official.
  • Serve on a jury 
  • Travel freely with a U.S. passport and obtain assistance from the U.S. government when overseas, if needed.
  • Bring family members to the U.S. 
  • Obtain citizenship for children under 18 years of age. 
  • Apply for federal jobs or those with government agencies
  • Become eligible for federal grants, scholarships, and government benefits (1)

Naturalization as a Legal Permanent Resident

For adult legal permanent residents, those with Green Cards, there is a significant list of requirements that must be met in order to begin the naturalization process. (2)

To be eligible for naturalization, you must:

  • Have been a lawful permanent resident for the required number of years
  • Have continuous residence in the United States
  • Read, write, and speak basic English
  • Have proven good moral character
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government
  • Demonstrate loyalty to the principles of the U.S. Constitution
  • Be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance.

Application

Green Card Holders that meet the above requirements begin their naturalization application by filling out Form N-400 and paying the necessary fees. This form requires basic information about you and copies of all of your immigration documents and those issued by your country of origin. After you file your application, you may require a biometric services appointment to provide your fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature. 

Interview and Examination

United States Law requires that those applying for citizenship undergo an interview with a government official, and pass tests in American Civics and basic English. Applicants are asked 20 of 128 questions about American government and history, and 12 questions must be answered correctly. They must also demonstrate the ability to speak, read, and write in English. (3)

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Applicants are only given two chances to pass this examination. After completing these steps, they receive a Notice of Decision regarding your naturalization eligibility. An application will either be granted or denied. It may also be marked as “continued” if more documentation is needed, or if you failed your English and/or Civics test the first time.

If you are deemed eligible, you can look forward to your naturalization ceremony, when you will take the Oath of Allegiance, and exchange your Green Card for your Certificate of Naturalization.

Citizenship Through Parents

A child can obtain US citizenship through their parents through either acquired citizenship or derivative citizenship.

Children born to U.S. citizens acquire U.S. citizenship. Children that are adopted from abroad by US citizens are eligible for derivative citizenship, as are the legal permanent resident children of a parent who naturalizes while the child is under 18. However, the laws that govern citizenship through parents are some of the most complicated in immigration. Children born to U.S Citizens are eligible to “acquire” US citizenship before the age of 18. However, if you are over the age of 18, you still have options. If you are the child of a US citizen who satisfied certain physical presence requirements, you may be able to acquire citizenship with the help of an experienced immigration attorney. These laws are extremely complex.

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Additionally, historical immigration patterns and foreign policy have changed immigration laws for children repeatedly over the last century. As a result, eligibility for US citizenship through parents can depend on the year in which the child was born, the age at which the child is applying for citizenship, and for adult children, their marital status. For older adults seeking US citizenship, this can pose some difficulties depending on the circumstances of their own parent’s naturalization. Residency requirements for citizenship further complicate this. (4) 

If you are seeking U.S. citizenship for your child, the stakes could not be higher. Nassim Arzani has helped families beat even the most dire odds, and has a wealth of experience in navigating this complex area of immigration law.

Follow her blog to learn more.

Earning Citizenship After Service in the US Military

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One of the responsibilities of U.S. citizens is to serve in the military when drafted. Non-citizens choosing to serve the United States are rewarded with an expedited path to citizenship and all fees waived. Those with legal resident status who served in peacetime must have completed one year of service in good conduct. (5) However, military eligibility is different in times of war. The United States has been in hostile conflict with foreign nations since September 11, 2001. Those who have served since then, or are veterans of previous wars who concluded their service with an honorable discharge, are granted eligibility for citizenship without residency or service term requirements. (6)

In addition to the N-400, the member of the military will need to fill out Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service. If deployed, their interview and tests will be administered by a member of the military.

Military Naturalization Benefits

The spouse and children of those serving in the military are also eligible for special consideration when applying for legal permanent resident status or naturalization.

The United States honors those killed while in active duty status by offering them US citizenship posthumously.

Dual Citizenship

Dual citizenship, or dual nationality, means that a person is a national of two countries at the same time. Dual citizenship for U.S. citizens requires allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. Therefore, a dual citizen is required to obey the laws of both countries, and either country has the right to enforce its laws, which may contradict each other.  However, each country has its own laws regarding dual citizenship, and not all countries allow for dual citizenship. 

Interestingly, U.S. law does not mention dual nationality.

Dual Nationality allows the citizen to own property, work, and travel freely between the two countries. They may also be subject to taxes in both countries. Although the U.S. requires that a person relinquish allegiance to all other governments when naturalizing, a citizen may choose to apply for dual citizenship after becoming a U.S. citizen, and this poses no risk to their U.S. citizenship. (7) 

If you are interested in pursuing dual citizenship, Nassim Arzani and the California Law Center can help you better understand your options and begin the process of becoming a dual national.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Naturalization?

California Law Center has a long history of success in overturning deportation orders. 

Immigration law is complicated. It’s a living, breathing system that legislation adjusts to best serve the American people. It contains thousands of sections and subsections that are revised, amended, or omitted in the ongoing pursuit of improved justice. While these intricacies have helped immigrants obtain citizenship, they also work to exclude those who do not meet its requirements. If your situation has made you ineligible to complete the naturalization process, you could be subject to denial or deportation.

Factors that could affect your filing and status in the U.S. include:

  • Criminal record, or failure to demonstrate “moral character” (8)
  • Dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Military
  • Unauthorized absence from the U.S. that results in being unable to meet residency requirements.
  • Inability to supply the necessary documents to prove that you entered the United States legally. (9)

Before you begin your naturalization paperwork, seek experienced legal counsel to find out what you might be up against, or what accommodations or exclusions might be applicable to your case.

Personal Consultation

Nassim Arzani has dedicated her career to serving immigrants who wish to become U.S. citizensand enjoy a fruitful and productive life in the United States. She understands that every case is unique, and that immigrants are often subject to circumstances beyond their control. During your personal consultation, you can expect personalized attention and answers to your questions. Nassim Arzani has over 17 years of immigration law, and this expertise allows her to recommend the best options, and the best path to citizenship for you. Once she understands the intricacies of your case, she’ll be able to give you a reasonable estimate. If you are looking to begin the naturalization process, or resolve issues with your application for citizenship, call (951) 683-0900 to schedule an appointment at our offices in Riverside, Los Angeles or Irvine. 

References

  1. United States Citizen and Immigration Services. Should I Consider U.S. Citizenship? | USCIS. www.uscis.gov. Published July 5, 2020. Accessed February 17, 2021. https://www.uscis.gov/citizenship/learn-about-citizenship/should-i-consider-us-citizenship
  2. INA 316, 8 U.S.C. § 1427: Requirements of naturalization
  3. 8 U.S.C. §1423: Requirements as to understanding the English language, history, principles and form of government of the United States
  4. INA 301, 8 U.S.C. § 1401: Nationals and citizens of United States at birth
  5. 8 § U.S.C. 1439: Naturalization through service in the armed forces
  6. INA 329, 8 USC § 1440: Naturalization through active-duty service in the Armed Forces during World War I, World War II, Korean hostilities, Vietnam hostilities, or other periods of military hostilities
  7. United States Department of State. Dual Nationality. State.gov. Published 2000. Accessed February 17, 2021. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/travel-legal-considerations/Advice-about-Possible-Loss-of-US-Nationality-Dual-Nationality/Dual-Nationality.html
  8. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Chapter 4 – Permanent Bars to Good Moral Character | USCIS. www.uscis.gov. Published April 15, 2019. Accessed February 17, 2021. https://www.uscis.gov/policy-manual/volume-12-part-f-chapter-4
  9. INA 318, 8 U.S.C. §1429. Prerequisite to naturalization; burden of proof