Obtaining U.S. Citizenship Through Naturalization
This article will explain how to obtain your U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process. Generally speaking, you need to meet the following requirements:
1. You must be a lawful permanent resident for five years (or three years if currently married to a U.S. citizen);
2. You must be 18 years or older;
3. You must have been physically present in the United States for at least one half of the five-year period (or one half of the three-year period if married to a United States citizen);
4. You must not have been continuously absent from the United States for more than one year (an absence of between six months and one year creates a rebuttable presumption that your residence has been interrupted);
5. You must have lived at least three months in the state where you are filing your application;
6. You must be a person of good moral character (no arrests or convictions during the three- or five-year period.)
These are the most common requirements for naturalization. There are other avenues available which will not be discussed here.
How To File Your Naturalization Or Citizenship Application
The application for naturalization is made on Form N-400. This form may be downloaded from the USCIS government website. The instructions to the form explain what documents need to be submitted, although in all cases you will need a photocopy of your green card and two identical color photographs. If you are a male, you will need to submit proof that you registered with the selective service, or will have to explain why you did not register. Once your application is filed, you will be scheduled for a biometrics interview (fingerprinting) and then scheduled for an interview on your N-400 application for naturalization.
Your Citizenship Interview
Every applicant for U.S. citizenship needs to be interviewed. At this interview you will be tested on your understanding of the English language, as well as your knowledge of American government. The immigration officer will also review your immigration history, to make sure that the information you gave when you applied for your green card was correct.
Potential Problems In Applying For Your Citizenship
The interview for your naturalization can be very detailed and thorough. The following are the types of problems that you may encounter when applying for citizenship:
1. Convictions — Certain convictions will cause immigration problems while others will not. If you have been convicted of any offense it is best to consult with an immigration attorney.
2. Prior immigration history — If there is any problem with your prior immigration history such as not working for your sponsoring employer, or not living with your spouse, there could be a problem with your naturalization and you should speak with an attorney.
3. Misrepresentations in prior immigration filings — If you have ever misrepresented a material fact in a prior immigration application, you should know that your entire immigration history will be reviewed in connection with your naturalization. A common example is where you failed to list a child on your petition to remove the conditions of residence (I-751) because the child was fathered by a person other than your spouse.
4. Child support — If you are required to make child support payments, you will be asked to provide proof that your child support payments are up to date.
5. Selective Service registration — if you are a male, and were physically present in the United States between the ages of 18 and 26 (even if you did not have a green card) you were required to register with the Selective Service. If you did not register, you will need to take appropriate steps to explain why you failed to register.
6. Long absences from the United States — If you have been outside of the United States for a continuous period of more than one year, you may have an issue related to abandoning your legal permanent residence status and you should speak with an immigration lawyer. A continuous absence of between six months and one year may also be problematic and best discussed with a lawyer.
7. Claims to U.S. citizenship — If you have voted in any federal or state election, or have made any claim to U.S. citizenship, for example, on a mortgage application, you should consult with an immigration lawyer.
Do I Need A Connecticut Immigration Lawyer For My Citizenship Or Naturalization Application?
An experienced Connecticut immigration lawyer can review your immigration history and help identify any potential issues in your naturalization case. An experienced immigration lawyer can also help make sure that your N-400 application for naturalization is correctly completed, and that all required documents are being sent. This can help make the process go faster. If you have any questions or concerns at all as to whether you are eligible for naturalization, or whether there is something in your history that might cause a problem, you should definitely consult with an immigration attorney in Connecticut before you file your application for naturalization.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Citizen Through Naturalization In Connecticut
At the time of this writing (March 2011) the process for naturalization takes approximately four months from the date of filing to interview. This processing time is approximate only, and is based upon current cases handled by our office. Processing times are always subject to change by USCIS. Please note that you do not become a citizen at your interview. You need to be formally sworn in at a later naturalization ceremony.
Our main offices are located in Stamford, but you can reach us at any of our three convenient Fairfield County locations by calling or by contacting an immigration attorney at our firm online. You can speak directly with a lawyer about your immigration case.
We have three locations, in Stamford, Norwalk and Bridgeport, to conveniently serve our clients with day or evening appointments. Appointments can be made for evenings, weekends and off-site locations for your convenience.
Attorney LaCava is listed in the Woodward White Publication “Best Lawyers in America” in the field of immigration.