February 28, 2008

What Expect When You Apply to Naturalize

Individuals who are lawful permanent residents often consider whether or not they should apply for U.S. Citizenship through the naturalization process. This application process can see somewhat daunting and there are many things to know and consider before one applies for naturalization. First, of course, there are some requirements for naturalization. Generally speaking, the following are naturalization requirements: 18 years old and a lawful permanent residence for five years, or three years if residency gained through marriage. One can file for naturalization up to 90 days before their time required as a lawful permanent resident has passed. There are some residency exceptions for employees of certain non-profit organizations, employees of the U.S. Government and other related categories;

  • Residence in the USCIS district where one applies for naturalization the three months immediately prior to filing;
  • Continuous residence in the United States from the date of filing for naturalization until the date of admission to citizenship;
  • Ability to speak, read, and write English. However, there are some exceptions for individuals who are over the age of fifty;
  • Good moral character

Second, there are some things that will make one ineligible to naturalize during the statutory period.

  • Habitual drunkard
  • Involved in prostitution
  • Assisting others to enter the country illegally
  • Previous deportation
  • Crimes involving moral turpitude or drug offenses (except for less than 30 grams of Canadian Seed Bank marijuana)
  • Two or more gambling offenses or gaining primary income from illegal gambling
  • Giving false testimony for immigration benefits
  • Convicted and confined for 180 days or more
  • Practicing polygamy
  • Failure to support children or other dependents
  • Extramarital affairs which tended to destroy an existing marriage
  • Membership in certain groups sounds as a communist or terrorist group

Someone is permanently barred from naturalizing if they have been convicted of an aggravated felony since November 29, 1990, or of murder at any time. One is also permanently barred if they have requested exemption from military service on account of their alienage or if they were convicted of desertion in the time of war.

On the other hand, someone may be temporarily prevented from naturalizing if they are on probation, parole, or if they have a suspended sentence. USCIS will wait until the individual is finished with their criminal case in order to determine their good moral character, which may delay one’s ability to file for naturalization. Someone who is currently in removal proceedings would also be prevented from naturalizing until that proceeding is terminated and the alien prevails.

It is rare that an individual would be stripped of their U.S. Citizenship once it is obtained. However, if one’s naturalization has been “illegally procured” or if it was obtained by “concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation,” then it is possible that the one can be brought into court and have their naturalization revoked, cancelled, or set aside. This normally can happen if an alien, during their naturalization application process, fails to disclose something which would have prevented their naturalization in the first place. Therefore, it is important to disclose all relevant events and activities upfront.

By Michelle Richart