Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills certain requirements in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
In most cases, an applicant for naturalization must be a permanent resident (green card holder) before filing. The two most common methods by which a person can become a permanent resident are through employment or a familial relationship to a U.S. citizen or U.S permanent resident. Permanent residence allows persons to live, work and otherwise fulfill a meaningful life in the U.S. A person can remain a permanent resident as long as they desire if they remain a law-abiding citizen. Permanent residence is often likened unto a driver license; it is a privilege and not a right. Holding either permanent residency or a driver license convey certain privileges that can be enjoyed as long as they are not abused. If a person drives under the influence, obtains excessive traffic violations or otherwise abuses the privilege to hold a driver license, the privilege can be revoked. The same applies to a green card holder. As long as they obey the law and comply with certain restrictions, green card holders can enjoy the privileges of U.S. residency indefinitely. No matter how permanent residency is obtained, once certain established criteria are met, naturalization is possible. The main difference between being a green card holder and naturalized U.S. citizen, is as long as naturalization was obtained lawfully, it can never be revoked. Naturalized U.S. citizens enjoy all the rights and privileges afforded to natural born U.S. citizens without restriction or limitation. In short, remaining in the U.S. changes from a privilege to a right.
You May Qualify for Naturalization if:
- You obtained permanent residence through employment, have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements.
- You obtained permanent residence through marriage, have been a permanent resident for 3 years or more and meet all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen.
- Other naturalization options are also available.
In order to file for naturalization under these circumstances, Form N-400 must be filed. In most cases the naturalization process is straightforward and can be obtained through proper preparation and filing of Form N-400. The N-400 naturalization process becomes complicated when eligibility requirements are not fully met. Common situations that can complicate the naturalization process are:
- Criminal violations
- Excessive time spent outside the U.S. while a green card holder
- Failure to file U.S. tax returns
- Voting illegally
- Involvement in various illegal, dishonest or criminal activities.
If you have questions about whether you have met the established criteria to become a naturalized U.S. citizen or need assistance with this sometimes confusing and complicated process, contact us today to see how we can assist you.