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  • By: Magdalena Cuprys, Esq.
  • Published: March 31, 2023
A person holding a flag - Serving Immigrants

Immigrants who come to the United States do so with one goal in mind: to live the American Dream. Becoming a U.S. citizen is a significant achievement for immigrants who have made the United States their home, and want to keep it that way without fearing deportation.

Applying for American citizenship provides individuals with the opportunity to have a voice in their government, participate in civic life, and enjoy the full rights and benefits of being an American citizen. The process to become a U.S. citizen may be challenging, but here, we will explore the basics, including the eligibility requirements, the naturalization process, and the benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen.

What Is The Difference Between “Citizen” And “Permanent Resident”?

A citizen and a permanent resident have different legal statuses in the United States legal system.

  • A citizen is someone born in the United States or who has gone through the process of obtaining U.S. citizenship. A citizen has the right to vote, run for public office, and enjoy all the benefits and privileges of being an American citizen. A citizen is also entitled to the full protection of U.S. laws and the U.S. Constitution.
  • A permanent resident, also known as a visa or green card holder, is someone with permission to live and work in the United States permanently. However, a permanent resident is not a citizen and cannot vote in U.S. elections or hold certain jobs that require U.S. citizenship. A permanent resident is also subject to deportation if he or she violates U.S. immigration laws or commits certain crimes.

Overall, citizenship is a higher legal status than permanent residency and provides additional benefits and privileges. However, for immigrants to obtain citizenship, they must meet certain eligibility requirements and go through a formal naturalization process.

What Is A U.S Naturalization Application?

Naturalization is the process by which an immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen. It is the legal process of obtaining citizenship after meeting certain eligibility requirements and going through a formal application process.

Naturalization is a significant milestone in the immigration process and provides individuals with full rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship.

Why Immigrants Should Apply For U.S. Citizenship By Naturalization?

Among the benefits of receiving U.S. citizenship through naturalization, foreign nationals, visa holders, and green card holders can change their legal status to permanent. This is important for immigrants who want to live and work in the country without fear of deportation.

New American citizens will also have the right to vote in federal and state elections, allowing them to participate in the democratic process and have a say in the political decisions that affect their lives and their families.

Naturalized U.S. citizens can travel freely in and out of the country. They just have to apply for a U.S. passport after naturalization, which allows them to receive consular assistance while abroad. Additionally, a natural citizen may apply to certain jobs and positions, like those in government or requiring security clearance.

Naturalized Americans also can sponsor family members for immigration to the United States, which can help bring families together. Lastly, being a U.S. citizen also comes with certain civic duties, such as serving on a jury when called upon, which is an important aspect of citizenship and civic responsibility.

Eligibility Requirements For U.S. Citizenship

  • Age: The immigrant must be at least 18 years old at the time of filing the U.S. citizenship Form N-400.
  • Legal Permanent Resident Status: The individual must have been a legal permanent resident (LPR) of the United States for a certain time. The individual must have maintained continuous residence in the United States during this period.
  • Good Moral Character: The individual must demonstrate good moral character, which means that hey have not committed any serious crimes or engaged in other behavior that would reflect negatively on their character.
  • English Language Ability: The individual must be able to speak, read, and write Basic English, as demonstrated by passing an English language proficiency test.
  • Knowledge of U.S. Civics and Government: The individual must have a basic understanding of U.S. civics and government, as demonstrated by passing a civics test.
  • Oath of Allegiance: The individual must be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, renouncing any allegiance to other countries or foreign powers.

Continuous Residence And Physical Presence Requirements

The continuous residence and physical presence requirements are important eligibility requirements for U.S. citizenship.

Continuous Residence means the individual must have been physically present in the United States for a certain period while maintaining an LPR status. The general rule is that the individual must have been continuously present in the U.S. for at least 5 years (or 3 years if the individual is married to a U.S. citizen) before filing the N-400 application form. During this period, the individual must not have any extended absences from the United States.

Physical Presence means the individual must have been physically present in the United States for a certain amount of time during the continuous residence period. The general rule is that the individual must have been physically present in the country for at least half of the continuous residence period (2.5 years out of 5 years, or 1.5 years out of 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen).

How To Demonstrate Continuous Presence

To demonstrate continuous presence for citizenship, the petitioner must have maintained a physical presence in the United States for a certain period without any extended absences. Here are some ways you can demonstrate continuous presence:

  • Tax Returns: You can provide copies of tax returns to show that you have been living and working in the United States during that time.
  • Employment Records: You can provide employment records or pay stubs to show that you have been working and living in the United States during that time.
  • School Records: You can provide transcripts from schools attended in the United States to show that you have been physically present in the country during the time you were enrolled.
  • Lease or Mortgage Agreements: You can provide copies of lease or mortgage agreements to show that you have been living on American soil for a certain period.
  • Utility Bills: You can provide copies of utility bills, such as electricity, gas, or water bills, to show that you have been living at a particular address in the United States for a certain time.

There are specific requirements for demonstrating continuous presence, and the evidence you provide will be subject to scrutiny by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

How To Apply For A U.S. Citizenship

  1. Review the eligibility requirements for U.S. citizenship to ensure that you meet the necessary criteria.
  2. Complete Form N-400 naturalization form.
  3. Collect the necessary documents to support your application, such as a copy of your green card or visa, tax returns, and other supporting evidence.
  4. Submit your completed N-400 application form and supporting documents to the USCIS along with the required filing fee.
  5. After submitting your application, you will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment where USCIS will take your fingerprints, photograph, and signature.
  6. Head to the U.S. citizenship interview with a USCIS officer, where you will be asked questions about your application and your background, and you will also be required to take an English and civics test.
  7. After the interview, you will receive a decision on your application. If approved, you will be scheduled to attend an oath ceremony where you will take the Oath of Allegiance and become a U.S. citizen.

The U.S. Citizenship Test And Interview

The citizenship test and interview are important parts of the U.S. citizenship application process. Here is what you can expect during the interview and test:

  • Interview: During the interview, a USCIS officer will review your application and ask you questions about your background and your eligibility for citizenship. You will be asked to provide additional documentation and answer questions about your residency, employment, criminal history, and other aspects of your personal history.
  • English Proficiency Testing: You will be required to take an English proficiency test that will evaluate your ability to speak, read, and write in English. The test will include basic questions and simple sentences.
  • Civics Test: You will also be required to take a civics test that will evaluate your knowledge of U.S. history and government. The test will include questions about the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the branches of government, and other important aspects of U.S. history and government. The civics test is usually administered orally, but it can also be written.
  • Results: After the interview and test, the USCIS officer will inform you of the results of your application. If you pass the interview and test, you will be scheduled for an oath ceremony where you will take the Oath of Allegiance and become a U.S. citizen.

After The Citizenship Interview And Test

After the citizenship interview and test, you will receive a decision from USCIS regarding your application for U.S. citizenship. Here are the possible outcomes and their follow-ups:

Approval: You will be scheduled for an oath ceremony, during which you will take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and officially become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Continuation: In some cases, the USCIS may decide to continue your case to review your application and require additional documentation from you. If your case is continued, USCIS will provide you with instructions on what you need to do next.

Denial: If your citizenship application is denied, you will receive a written notice explaining the reason for the denial. You may be able to appeal the decision or file a new application in the future.

Us Citizenship Test Exemptions

It is important to note that there may be exceptions and special cases individuals, such as military service members, spouses of U.S. citizens, and individuals who have been granted asylum or refugee status. The exemptions include:

  1. Age: People who are 65 years of age or older and have been legal permanent residents (LPR) for at least 20 years are exempt from the English language requirement for the citizenship test. They must still take the civics test, but they may take it in their native language.
  2. Disability: Individuals who have a physical or developmental disability that prevents them from fulfilling the requirements of the citizenship test may be exempt from both the English language and civics tests. They must provide documentation from a licensed medical professional to support their disability claim.
  3. Military Service: Members of the U.S. armed forces, including those who have served during periods of hostilities, may be eligible for exemptions or modifications to the citizenship test requirements. This exemption also includes spouses of members of the U.S. armed forces.
  4. Medical Conditions: Individuals who have a medical condition that prevents them from speaking, reading, or writing in English or from understanding U.S., civics may be exempt from the citizenship test. They must provide documentation from a licensed medical professional to support their medical condition claim.

Applying for citizenship in the United States should not be a headache. Serving Immigrants helps you by providing the best legal counsel for people who have immigration cases or want to be in the U.S. permanently. If you have any doubts and wish to improve your chances of becoming a citizen, schedule a meeting with Magdalena and her team of immigration attorneys. We will provide you with the best advice.

We also provide free U.S. citizenship classes online. Do you want to register to improve your chances of living in the United States freely and without fear of deportation? Sign up here

Image of Attorney Magdalena Cuprys, Esq with 4.7 start reviews

Attorney Magdalena Cuprys is a seasoned immigration lawyer based in Orlando and Coral Gables, Florida. With three languages under her belt and years of legal experience working with immigrants of all kinds, she brings considerable experience and insight to the field and works hard to explain immigration concepts, empower future citizens, and keep current and prospective immigrants up to date on US immigration law.

Connect with her firm, Serving Immigrants, to stay updated on the latest developments in United States immigration law and gain valuable insights needed to navigate the challenging legal landscape of immigration in Florida. 

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