Established in 1980, with Over 30 Years of PROVEN Success in All Phases of U.S. Immigration law.

BECOMING A U.S. CITIZEN

Overview of the Eligibility Requirements

American citizenship is usually obtained in one of three ways: (1) through birth in the United States or one of its territories (2) through birth abroad (after November 1986) to a U.S. citizen and a non-citizen parent or (3) through a process known as naturalization. The materials that follow deal only with the process of naturalization. If you were born in the U.S. or its territories, then your birth certificate is proof of your U.S. citizenship.? If you were born abroad and one or both of your parents were U.S. citizens, you should contact us directly in order to determine your citizenship status.

A foreign born national who is not a citizen at birth will have to go through a process known as naturalization to become a U.S. citizen. In order to qualify for the naturalization process, the foreign national must have been a permanent resident (with a "green card")? for at least five years or have a green card for three years and be married to and living with a U.S. citizen during the three year period. (Different rules apply if you served in the U.S. Armed Forces.) In addition, the applicant must have lived primarily in the United States during the five year (or three year) residency period, be able to read and write "basic English", and pass a simple civics examination.?

Perhaps most importantly, the applicant for naturalization must be a person of "good moral character." This means you cannot become a U.S. citizen if you have a serious criminal record. It is critical to speak with an immigration attorney before applying for naturalization if you have ANY criminal record. Many times, a person with a "minor" criminal record will apply for naturalization and find instead that they are placed in deportation proceedings.

The processing times for naturalization are routinely taking between 12 to 18 months from filing to swearing in at most areas of the United States with urban areas taking the longest.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I know if I am a U.S. citizen by birth?

A. Generally, you are a U.S. citizen if (1) you were born in the United States or its territories (2) you were born abroad to one or more U.S. citizens parents after November 14, 1986. If you were born aboard before November 14, 1986, to one or more citizen parents the rules are very complicated and you should consult an immigration attorney to determine your citizenship status.

Q. What is involved in applying for naturalization?

A. An application (N-400) is completed and filed with the USCIS service center having jurisdiction over your place of residence, along with photographs and the required filing fee (currently $390 including the fingerprint or biometrics fee.) You will be notified by USCIS? to have your fingerprints taken at a local USCIS applications support center and later notified of the time and place of your naturalization interview. At the interview, which will be conducted in English, you must show that you understand "basic English" that you can answer a few questions concerning U.S. history and government, and questioned concerning your trips outside the U.S. and any criminal or related conduct that might reflect on your "good moral character."

Q. I am now a permanent resident. When can I apply for citizenship?

A. As a general rule, you must be a permanent resident of the United States for 5 years and been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of those 5 years before you can apply for naturalization. USCIS actually allows you to apply for naturalization three months early, after you have been a permanent resident for 57 months. If you are married to and living with a U.S. citizen who has been a U.S. citizen for at least three years you can apply for naturalization after you have had your green card for three years. (and yes, you too can apply three months early.)

Q. Can I become a citizen automatically by marrying a U.S. citizen?

A. No. If you are not a U.S. citizen at birth, you must first become a permanent resident before you become a U.S. citizen. Marriage to a U.S. citizen does not result in any automatic benefits.

Q. I obtained my green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen but we are now separated (or divorced) Can I still apply for naturalization?

A. Yes, but you will have to wait until you have been a permanent resident for at least five years. You can apply three months early, after you have had your green card for 4 years and 9 months.

Q. What kinds of questions will they ask me for the civics part of the examination?

A. The Department of Homeland Security publishes a list of 100 questions and answers concerning U.S. government and history. At the time of the examination, you will be asked ten questions from the list. You must answer 6 correctly to pass that part of the exam. For a list of these questions and answers, click HERE.

Q. How much English do I need to know to pass the examination?

A. The law requires that you know "basic English."? This requires "an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write and speak . . .? simple words and phrases . . . in ordinary usage in the English language. . ." The interview will be conducted in English and you will be asked to write a simple sentence such as "I want to be an American citizen" or "A good citizen supports his family."

Q. Is there any way I can get out of taking the English or civics part of the examination?

A. Yes. There are exceptions for age and disability. If you are over 50 years of age and have been living primarily in the U.S.? as a permanent resident for 20 years, or you are over 55 and have been living primarily in the U.S. as a permanent resident for at least 15 years you can be excused from the English exam. You can also be excused from the exams if you are disabled and your disability impairs your ability to take the exams.

Q. How long will it take to become a citizen after I file the application?

A. In most areas of the United States, the processing time from filing to interview is between 9 to 12 months. USCIS is required by law to adjudicate your application within 120 days of the interview. If they do not make a decision within that time, you can sue them in federal court.

Q. I have made many trips abroad since I obtained my green card. Will this prevent me from becoming a U.S. citizen?

A. Not necessarily. The number of times you have traveled abroad is not important. It is the time you have spent abroad that matters. The law requires that you have been physically present in the United States for at least half of the required residency period.? For most people, this means they must have spent at least 30 months within the U.S. (If you are married and living with a U.S. citizens and can apply after three years, you must have spent at least 18 months within the U.S.) BUT REMEMBER if you have spent 6 months or more consecutively outside the U.S., the required residency period will start from the beginning upon your return.

Q. Is there any way I can expedite the processing?

A. Generally no. There is no expedite fee for naturalization applications. If USCIS has not made a decision on your application within 120 days after your interview, you can go into federal court and get a federal judge to adjudicate your case.

Q. How can I get citizenship for my children?

A. A child cannot apply for naturalization until the child is at least 18 years of age. However, a child may become a U.S. citizen before the age of 18 if (1) the child is born in the United States, or (2) the child is born abroad to a U.S. citizen(s) who lived in (or came to) the United States for certain? periods of time prior to the child?s birth, or (3) the child is a permanent resident of the United States, unmarried, and either parent becomes a U.S. citizens before the child turns 18 years of age.

There are other limited circumstances under which a minor child can become a U.S. citizen in cases of stepchildren, adopted children and children born out of wedlock. If your child may fall into one of these classes, you should consult an immigration attorney. If you and your child meet all of these requirements, you may obtain a U.S. passport for the child as evidence of citizenship. (Note: a child who meets these requirements before his or her 18th birthday may obtain a passport or Certificate of Citizenship at any time, even after he or she turns 18.)

Q. If I become a citizen of the United States, will I lose my native citizenship?

A. Not necessarily. If you become a naturalized U.S. citizen, the U.S. government does not require that you renounce your native citizenship. However, your native country may require you to give up your native citizenship when you take the oath of allegiance to the U.S. You should check with your local consulate if this is a matter of concern to you.

Q. How do I get started?

A. We suggest you begin by taking the Eligibility Quiz or simply contact us now!