Getting citizenship is the final step on a foreign national’s way to become a full-rights-member of the American society. Although one can live and work in the U.S. in the permanent resident status for an unlimited period of time and never naturalize, it is highly recommendable to obtain U.S. citizenship.
The most important examples include: only U.S. citizens can participate in the elections, apply for governmental positions, travel abroad for any period of time without any additional documents (such as a reentry permit), have full protection of due process, and help their immediate relatives to receive permanent residence in the U.S.
A lawful permanent resident (who is at least 18 years old) may apply for naturalization, if he/she meets the following requirements:
1- Continuous residence in the U.S. for five years (but when permanent residence was acquired through marriage to the U.S. citizen, the required period of continued residence is only 3 years);
2- Physical presence in the U.S. for at least half of period specified above;
3- Residence in the state of application for at least 3 months;
4- Ability to read, write and speak basic English;
5- Knowledge of the fundamentals of U.S. history and government;
6- Good moral character for the requisite 5 or 3 years;
7- Continuous residence in the U.S. from the time of fling an application for naturalization until admission to citizenship; and,
8- Attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution.
Note: Any absence from the U.S. must be specified on the naturalization application form and will be taken into account by the immigration officer. Although temporary absences (less than six months during the statutory period) do not break the continuity of residence for naturalization purposes, it must be kept in mind that any absence from the U.S. of more than six months and less than one year presumptively breaks this continuity. The applicant can overcome the presumption only by showing that he/she did not in fact abandon the residence during such period. An absence from the U.S. for one year or more breaks the continuity of residence, and applicant must complete a new period of residence after return from abroad.
Note: To satisfy the “good moral character” requirement, an applicant must not only establish a clean criminal record but also prove the payment of taxes over the preceding five (or three) years. Failure to file income tax returns or even incorrect filing can be found as a lack of good moral character.
It is very important to get advice from an immigration attorney before you decide to apply for citizenship. In some situations, it is better to postpone an application, in others – especially when criminal history is present – not to file at all.
Contact our experienced immigration attorneys at Partovi Law LLC. in northern Virginia
Please call us at 703-752- 6148 to discuss your eligibility and/or timeframe for filing your naturalization application.