New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

How to become a US Citizen

Author: Citizenship Attorney Alena Shautsova

The first step towards the US citizenship, usually, is Permanent Residency. (See How to get a green card)

After you become a permanent resident or more commonly known as "Green Card holder" the next step in the long sought out process of immigrating to the US is to become a citizen. There are several ways to become a US Citizen after you have obtained your status of permanent resident.

The first and most common way of becoming a US Citizen is called Naturalization. This applies to permanent residents that are:

  • Over 18 Years of Age
  • Have held a green card continuously for at least 5 years, you must be physically present in the US for at least 30 months out of the 5 years
  • Have lived in the state you plan on applying for citizenship for at least 3 months
  • Reside in the US after you apply for Naturalization until you are naturalized
  • Pass an Examination of US History and Basic knowledge of the English language both orally and literally*
  • Possess good moral character**

There is a variation of naturalization when a non-citizen marries a US citizen. This has the same basic eligibility requirements as Naturalization with a few minor changes.

First:

  • Your spouse has to have been a U.S. Citizen for at least 3 years.
  • You must hold a permanent resident (green card holder) status for at least 3 years.
  • You have to live in a marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse during such time. ***

and also:

  • You must be Over 18 Years of Age
  • Have held a green card continuously for at least 3 years, you must be physically present in the US for at least 18 months out of the 3 years
  • Have lived in the state you plan on applying for citizenship for at least 3 months
  • Reside in the US after you apply for Naturalization until you are naturalized
  • Pass an Examination of US History and Basic knowledge of the English language both orally and literally*
  • You must have a good moral character**

If your US Citizen spouse is regularly stationed aboard, and both of you reside there, you may apply for citizenship if you are a permanent resident. There is no requirement for amount of time you are required to hold your status as a permanent resident, stay in the US, or minimum time period of a marital union ( only that there is one of course: you need to be married to a U.S. citizen spouse regularly stationed abroad in qualifying employment for at least one year.) You must also show that you will depart abroad immediately after naturalization and that you will reside in the United States immediately upon the termination of your spouse’s employment abroad.

Qualifying employers of the US Government

  • the U.S. government (such as the CIA, the military, the Peace Corps, or the American Red Cross)
  • a U.S. research institution that has been recognized by the U.S. attorney general (these are listed at 8 C.F.R. section 316.20(a))
  • a U.S. firm or corporation (or a subsidiary) that is engaged wholly or partly in developing U.S. foreign trade and commerce
  • a public international organization in which the United States participates by treaty or statute (these are listed at 8 C.F.R. section 316.20(b) and (c)), or
  • a religious denomination that has an organization within the United States; your spouse must perform ministerial or priestly functions there or work solely as a missionary.

The Third and least popular method of becoming a US Citizen, is to join the US Military. The requirements for this method of obtaining US Citizenship are broken up into 2 categories, periods of hostility and periods of peace. Please note that a spouse of the US citizen military member may become a citizen without coming to the US.

The Fourth method of obtaining US Citizenship is through your parents Citizenship. There are 3 ways to qualify through your parents:

  • the first is through automatic citizenship at birth; and
  • the second is through your parents after birth; and
  • the third is through your adoptive parents.

Despite the simplicity of the N-400 application, the citizenship process is not a simple filing of the application and passing the test: applicants full immigration history is being evaluated at the time of the adjudication of the citizenship application. Sometimes, only during the citizenship stage, a person finds out that he/she has an outstanding order of deportation; sometimes, the USCIS challenges the legality of the permanent resident status; sometimes, it is the marital union that is being questioned. The bottom line that it is always a good idea to consult with a good Immigration attorney prior to submitting applications with the Immigration authorities.


* Exceptions may apply please see http://www.shautsova.com/immigration-usa/citizenship-usa-new-york-attorney.html
** If you have been criminally charged this does not necessarily bar you from naturalization. Consult with an attorney to see if you qualify for good moral character. You will need to produce your Certificate of Disposition for an accurate consultation.
*** Exceptions apply to Battered or Abused Spouses of US Citizens.

02 November 2013
Watch Our YouTube Channel Free Legal Videos