Assisting Clients with Citizenship via Naturalization
United States citizenship is a significant and powerful distinction that carries numerous benefits and responsibilities. U.S. citizens have the ability to permanently live and work in the United States without restriction. They can also vote in elections or even run for office. Becoming citizen is the ultimate dream of many immigrants. The naturalization process has gotten increasingly complex and protracted over the years.
Many will need the assistance of a legal representative. Our Manhattan citizenship lawyer at John Nicelli & Associates has substantial experience navigating naturalization and helping New York clients become citizens. We can determine your eligibility, assist in the assembling and submittal of your application, represent you in communications with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and work to prepare you for your interview and exam.
Seeking U.S. citizenship? Contact John Nicelli & Associates or call (212) 227-8020 for a consultation with our attorney today. Our services are available in English, Spanish, Polish, and Portuguese.
What is the Importance of Citizenship?
Citizenship is important because there are many advantages that are only available to those who are U.S. citizens.
Below are the top 6 reasons to obtain citizenship:
- Protect you and your children from deportation.
- If you have children under 18 who are lawful permanent residents (LPRs) they will automatically become citizens when you naturalize.
- Citizens can petition for immigrant family members to come to the U.S.
- You will have the freedom to travel without any restrictions.
- You will be eligible to work for the U.S. government.
- You are allowed to vote and elect leaders who will represent you, your family, and your community.
The country has a long history of welcoming immigrants into its citizenry through the process of naturalization, in which lawful permanent residents undergo a series of steps to confirm eligibility and ultimately take the Oath of Allegiance.
How to Qualify for Citizenship Through Naturalization
Becoming a United States citizen can be an expensive, time-consuming process. In addition to undergoing a mandatory waiting period after receiving your green card, you must meet all conditions of a rigorous criteria.
If you want to become a United States citizen through naturalization, the following must apply:
- You are at least 18-years old
- You are a lawful permanent resident and have undergone the mandatory waiting period
- You sincerely believe in and be willing to defend the United States Constitution
- You are willing to serve in the United States military if called upon
- You are willing to register with the Selective Service System if you are male and younger than 26 years of age
- You have lived in the state you are applying from for at least 3 months
- You have not left the country for more than 6 months at a time during your mandatory waiting period
- You have sufficient English language proficiency and civics knowledge to pass a naturalization exam
- You possess “good moral character”
What is "Good Moral Character"?
You may be wondering what constitutes “good moral character” and how USCIS can objectively measure these qualities in an applicant. Sadly, the good moral character determination can seem frustratingly arbitrary and is in many circumstances handled on a case-by-case basis.
There are several disqualifying factors USCIS looks for, however. Violent felony crimes tend to trigger automatic rejections, as does any fraudulent behavior when communicating with USCIS or any other government agency. Less serious crimes could also come under scrutiny, but a minor criminal record – especially if the offenses occurred many years ago – can often be overcome with the assistance of an experienced citizenship lawyer.
What is the Naturalization Process? Let Us Be Your Guide.
Ensure that you meet all the eligibility requirements. If you are unsure, your best option is to contact an experienced naturalization lawyer in Manhattan. We can ensure that you are eligible to prevent delays in your application. Firstly, you will need a green card, which makes you a lawful permanent resident, to become a United States citizen through naturalization. After you receive your green card, you cannot immediately apply for citizenship. Depending on the type of green card and individual circumstances, you will be required to submit to a waiting period before proceeding with naturalization and reside in the United States for a majority of that time. If you are eligible, you may begin the process.
Below is an overview of the naturalization process:
- Submit a completed Form N-500, Application for Naturalization.
- Pay the fees.
- If applicable, attend your biometrics appointment.
- Attend the naturalization interview.
- Receive a decision from USCIS regarding your N-400.
- Receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance.
How Long Does Naturalization Take?
Some common green card scenarios and their corresponding wait time requirements include:
- If you have a marriage-based green card, you will need to wait 3 years after receiving your green card.
- If you have an individual green card, you will need to wait 5 years after receiving your green card. You will need to live in the country for at least 2.5 years.
The Application Process
Once you have undergone the mandatory waiting period and meet all other eligibility requirements, it is time to file the formal application for naturalization with USCIS. This application is called Form N-400, the Application for Naturalization. You will also need to pay the associated filing fees when submitting your application.
Some of the documents you will need to correctly submit Form N-400 include:
- A copy of your green card. You will need copies of both the front and back of, your “Permanent Resident Card.”
- Identification pictures. Two “passport-style” photos
- Application filing fee payment. Fee waivers are potentially available to those experiencing financial hardship or other extenuating circumstances
- Evidence of current marital status. This can include certificates confirming marriage, death, divorce, or annulment.
If you are applying as a result of serving in the military, you will also have to provide proof of your qualifying service. If you are seeking exemptions from the naturalization exam (discussed more below), you will also have to submit proof of a qualifying medical disability.
It is critical that Form N-400 be submitted accurately and with all of the necessary documents. Any errors, mistakes, or omissions can trigger a rejection from USCIS and force you to start the entire naturalization process over from the beginning. This means you will not only have to fill out a new application, you may also have to repay filing fees and endure lengthy processing times. Our Manhattan citizenship attorney can help you and work to ensure Form N-400 is filled out and submitted accurately.
In addition to filing the application, you will also be required to have your fingerprints taken after you are scheduled by USCIS at a biometrics office.
The Naturalization Exam
You will have to successfully complete a two-part naturalization test at the time of your USCIS interview. One component assesses English language proficiency, while the other is a straightforward civics exam. Both portions are brief.
The English test will require you to handwrite any one of three sentences spoken by the USCIS officer. You will also have to speak aloud one of three written sentences provided to you.
As of December 1,2020, the civics test will consist of your being given a series of questions evaluating your understanding of how the United States government works and the country's history. These questions are all straightforward and come from a pool of 128questions published online, so it is easy to prepare for the exam in advance. You only have to answer 12 questions correctly to pass.
If you do not pass either portion on the first try, you can schedule an additional attempt at a later date. You may also be able to obtain an exemption for one or both portions of the test based on your age, length of time present in the United States, and/or a qualifying medical disability.
Should the USCIS agent still have concerns about your application, they may schedule a second interview or request additional documentation. Otherwise, your application will be approved immediately or in the following weeks.
The USCIS Interview
Once USCIS has processed your application and encountered no disqualifying factors, the agency will schedule an interview at your local field office. The agents will ask you questions about information on your application. You will in most circumstances be permitted to bring a legal representative to the interview if you properly requested one with your application.
You will also be required to bring a trove of documentation to validate information included on your application. Some of this may feel redundant, but it is critical you bring as much supporting evidence as possible.
Some of the documents you should plan to bring to your USCIS interview include:
- Your physical green card
- Your state ID card or driver's license
- Any travel records or documents, including passports current and expired
- Documents relating to any marital status, including divorces
- Documentation supporting any name changes
- Proof of spouse's U.S. citizenship for past 3 years (if you are applying through a marriage-based green card)
- Evidence supporting an authentic marriage (if you are applying through a marriage-based green card)
- Proof of federal and state tax compliance, including your last several federal tax returns
- Proof you maintained sufficient physical presence in the United States throughout the mandatory waiting period
- Proof of Selective Service Registration, if relevant
- Records of any encounters with law enforcement or criminal offenses
As we mentioned above, you should be prepared to discuss any criminal record you may have, even if the offenses seem insignificant. You should bring all documentation involving each case, including evidence establishing the final outcome, the completion of any served time or required probation, and records of any plea bargains or expunged infractions.
When in doubt, bring more evidence than you think might be necessary. Not having the proper documentation can delay the naturalization process or even result in your application's rejection. Our Manhattan citizenship lawyer can help assess what documents you need and represent you during the in-person interview.
The Oath of Allegiance
Once your naturalization has been approved, the final step is to participate in an Oath of Allegiance ceremony. This requires no additional preparation and is mostly symbolic in nature. USCIS will reach out with a scheduled date, location, and time.
You will only have to report to the ceremony site with the necessary documents (including your green card, your application letter, government-issued ID, and passport) and recite the oath before a USCIS officer. You do not have to memorize the oath, as its text will be provided to you
After the ceremony is completed, you will officially become a United States citizen. All of the associated benefits will become immediately available to you.
As you can see, becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization is not a simple endeavor, and it can be easy to forget essential documents or make avoidable mistakes. Our Manhattan citizenship lawyer at John Nicelli & Associates comes from a family of immigrants himself and understands the symbolic and practical importance of naturalization. Our firm's mission is to give every client's case the honesty, integrity, and respect it deserves.
Our team will do everything in our power to fight for you, but we will also be straightforward in acknowledging any challenges or obstacles you might face. We are also sympathetic to the costs inherent to the naturalization process, which is why we are proud to offer convenient payment plans for our services.