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How To Apply American Citizenship

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					                           Applying for American Citizenship

Introduction

It is essential that all permanent residents who are eligible for naturalization seriously
consider applying for United States citizenship. In today’s restrictive immigration
environment, it is very easy for a permanent resident to be deported, even after many
years in the United States, and even despite the existence of an American spouse and
children. Often, when a permanent resident naturalizes, his or her children under 18 who
reside with them automatically become American citizens. In addition to making
deportation impossible, unless American citizenship is acquired fraudulently, becoming
an American also can have tax, employment, and other benefits. For all these reasons,
any permanent resident that is eligible for American citizenship should apply unless there
are good reasons for not doing so. Indeed, some permanent residents should not apply
for American citizenship because doing so actually can result in their deportation. This
document is intended to help you understand these issues, but it does not constitute legal
advice.

General Requirements to Naturalize

Although there are exceptions, most applicants for naturalization must fulfill age,
residence, physical presence, and good moral character requirements. Specifically, most
naturalization applicants must have been a permanent resident and have maintained a
residence in the United States continuously for five years since obtaining permanent
resident status. Persons with permanent resident status living in marital union for three
years with a U.S. citizen spouse are eligible for citizenship. Although overseas travel is
permitted after applying for citizenship, a U.S. residence must be maintained between
filing for naturalization and obtaining citizenship.

Most citizenship applicants must reside for three months in the state of the U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) district of filing. Additionally, most
applicants must have been physically present in the United States at least half of the
required time period prior to filing, i.e., either half of five or three years. Absences from
the United States of over six months, but less than one year, during either the five or three
year periods break the continuity of residence, unless the applicant can prove that
residence was not abandoned. Absences of over one year break the period of required
residence where the applicant does not obtain the CIS’ approval of an application to
preserve residence. Applications for citizenship may be filed no more than 90 days
before the applicant’s fifth or third anniversary date as a permanent resident.

All naturalization applicants must demonstrate good moral character. Good moral
character is determined not only by an examination of the applicant’s police records, but
also general conduct. Some behavior, such as failure to pay child support or taxes,
certain driving offenses, and criminal convictions can result in a finding that an applicant
lacks the required good moral character for American citizenship.
The spouses of U.S. citizens who work abroad sometimes can apply for citizenship
immediately after acquiring permanent resident status and without satisfying the
residence or physical presence requirements. This includes the spouses of U.S. citizens
working for either the U.S. government, an international organization of which the
United States is a member, selected American research institutions, American
corporations engaged in U.S. foreign trade and commerce, and certain religious workers
who are regularly stationed abroad. These permanent residents can file for American
citizenship immediately after they have acquired permanent resident status, or any time
later, despite lengthy absences from the United States.

Citizenship applicants working for the U.S. government, international organizations of
which the United States is a member, selected American research institutions, or
American corporations engaged in U.S. foreign trade and commerce may be exempted
from the continuous residence requirement, but not the physical presence requirement.
To qualify, however, they must establish that they have never departed the United States
for one year after obtaining permanent resident status, and that their absence is on behalf
of the above U.S. entities before one year of continuous absence. There are a few other
unusual exceptions to the basic requirements to naturalize.

Permanent Residents Who Have Been Arrested

Any permanent resident who has ever been arrested must consult with a knowledgeable
immigration attorney, and especially before applying for United States citizenship. Some
permanent residents with criminal records are nonetheless eligible for American
citizenship. Others with criminal records are not eligible for U.S. citizenship. Most
importantly, some permanent residents with criminal records will be placed in removal
proceedings if they apply for U.S. citizenship. Any permanent resident who has ever
been arrested anywhere at any time must consult with an immigration attorney, not only
before applying for naturalization, but also before leaving the United States. Today,
permanent residents with ancient and insignificant criminal records often are detained
indefinitely, without bond, after a brief trip overseas. These very important warnings
apply to any permanent resident who has ever been arrested, even if the criminal case was
ultimately dismissed and/or the criminal record has been expunged.

Dual Citizenship

The United States recognizes dual nationality. Consequently, when a permanent resident
naturalizes, American law does not require him or her to give up his or her original
nationality. On the other hand, some permanent residents will automatically lose their
original nationality upon the acquisition of American citizenship under the laws of their
original country of nationality. Persons concerned about maintaining their original
nationality after acquiring American citizenship must discuss those concerns with their
consulate, and perhaps, too, with a lawyer in their country of original citizenship.

Please contact us if you have questions or if you would like our assistance in
applying for American citizenship.
This document does not constitute legal advice.

				
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