Establishing U.S. Citizenship Through N-400 Naturalization
Although the logistics of establishing who is already a U.S. citizen and who is eligible to become a U.S. citizen is very complicated, the general criteria is straightforward. Citizenship can be proven or obtained in a variety of ways, including:
- Being born in the United States;
- Being born abroad to at least one parent who is an American citizen;
- Through automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship after birth but before the age of 18; or
- Through the process of naturalization.
Because these processes can be nuanced, it is easy to make mistakes when trying to prove or obtain citizenship. Therefore, it is very important to understand which rules and regulations apply in any given situation. Our experienced Los Angeles citizenship lawyers and naturalization attorneys know the ins and outs of this area of law, and we would love to help guide you through it.
Eligibility for Naturalization
The process that allows citizens of other countries to obtain U.S. citizenship is called naturalization. Before you can start the naturalization process, you must become a green card holder. Once you are a green card holder for approximately three to five years, then you can start to explore whether you are eligible for naturalization.
To be eligible to naturalize and become a full citizen of the United States, the general requirements are that you be,
- At least 18 years old;
- Able to pass an English test (with some exceptions);
- Able to pass a test on U.S. civics and history (with some exceptions);
- A green card holder for a certain number of years before filing the naturalization application:
- A lawful permanent resident for at least five years; or
- A lawful permanent resident who has been married to and living with a U.S. citizen for at least three years.
- Have been physically present in the U.S. on a continual basis;
- Have been physically present in the U.S. for the majority of the statutory period (i.e., the years as a green card holder);
- Have been person of good moral character;
- Have lived in the U.S. and the state from which you file your naturalization application for at least three months before filing; and
- Support the Constitution and form of government of the United States.
While these requirements seem straightforward on paper, applicants often misunderstand whether they meet the requirements or not. Some very common reasons that naturalization applications are denied citizenship are having spent too much time outside of the United States while a permanent resident, having an open criminal case or having been convicted of certain disqualifying crimes, failing to properly file U.S. taxes, or failing to register for selective service. This is another area where a knowledgeable citizenship lawyer can be an invaluable resource.
Steps in the Citizenship & Naturalization Process
Knowing what to expect helps any process seem less overwhelming, and not being caught unawares is more important than every when you are in the process of obtaining citizenship. Attorney Josh Goldstein and team can guide you through each step of the naturalization process, from start to finish.
A typical naturalization proceeds in the following manner:
- Once we help you determine that you are eligible for naturalization, we fill out and submit form N-400 on your behalf, along with the filing fee and any necessary supporting documentation. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will then send you a notice indicating that the government has received your N-400 application. This receipt notice will assign you a personal number, which you can use to check your case status online.
- You will be mailed a biometrics notice, which will tell you that you are required to appear for a “biometrics appointment” – an appointment where immigration takes your photo and fingerprints so that the government can complete a background check before your interview. After your biometrics have been captured, USCIS will schedule a naturalization interview at the USCIS office closest to your home address.
- When you hire a Los Angeles citizenship lawyer, it is their job to accompany you to the interview for legal support and advice, if needed. The interview will include a test of your ability to read, write and speak English, as well as a test on U.S. civics and history. In addition to these tests, a USCIS officer will review your N-400 application to confirm and update all of the information that you have submitted in the application and supporting documents.
- At the end of the interview, the officer should give you a piece of paper indicating whether you passed the English tests, the civics test, and whether you are being recommended for approval. The officer will prepare the information that will appear on your naturalization certificate and inform know how soon to expect your oath notice.
- After the interview, you will be mailed a letter called your oath notice. This letter will inform you when and where your swearing in ceremony will take place. It is on the day of your swearing in that you will become a U.S. citizen.
Exceptions to the English and Civics Tests
Some individuals do not have to take the English exams, and others are exempt from taking both the English and civics exams. The exemptions from the English exams are based on the following rules:
- 50/20: If an applicant is 50 years of age when he or she files a naturalization application and has lived in the U.S. for at least 20 years, he or she does not have to take the English test.
- 55/15: If an applicant is over 55 years of age at the time of filing and has been a permanent resident for at least 15 years, he or she also does not have to take the English test.
However, individuals exempt from the English test must bring an interpreter to their naturalization interview and must still take the civics test. The test can be taken in the applicant’s native language.
The exemption from both the English and civics tests applies to applicants who are over 65 years of age at the time of filing and have been green card holders for at least 20 years.
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Consult With a Los Angeles Citizenship and Naturalization Attorney
Obtaining U.S. citizenship can be a complex and time-consuming process: If you or a loved one are seeking to change your status from a green card holder to a citizen, it is important to contact an experienced Los Angeles immigration attorney who can make sure your rights are protected.
Please do not hesitate to contact the leading Los Angeles citizenship and naturalization lawyer at the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers today. Please answer a few questions here and schedule your free case evaluation. Whether your case is simple or complicated, rest assured that our dedicated team will be by your side every step of the way!