Before you begin working toward an immigration goal, you most likely want to know everything you can about the process, benefits, and potential challenges. At the US Legal Group, APC, we want to give you the knowledge you need to make fully informed decisions. As such, we have compiled the answers to the top 10 frequently asked questions about citizenship and naturalization. If you need additional guidance, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our law firm.
1. Why should I become a citizen?
Citizenship offers substantially greater benefits compared to those with nonimmigrant visas or even green cards.
The benefits of citizenship include:
- Permanent protection from deportation (even if you commit a crime)
- The right to vote and run for office
- Access to employment opportunities that are only available to U.S. citizens
- A greater ability to sponsor family members for green cards (along with shorter wait times)
- The ability to travel abroad for extended periods without jeopardizing your status
These are just a few of the benefits you will experience. For most, the naturalization process is well worth the result.
2. Can you lose your citizenship?
There are several ways to lose your citizenship, including:
- Running for office in another country (with certain exceptions)
- Joining another country’s military (with certain exceptions)
- Becoming a citizen of another country with the intention of renouncing U.S. citizenship
- Committing treason against the U.S.
- Voluntarily renouncing your citizenship
You can also lose your citizenship if USCIS discovers that you obtained it through fraud. In general, however, losing your citizenship is much more difficult than losing lawful permanent residence.
3. Can a U.S. citizen be deported?
A U.S. citizen cannot legally be deported. The only way this could happen is if the individual loses their citizenship (see #2) and becomes deportable.
4. What is naturalization?
Naturalization is the legal process of becoming a U.S. citizen if you don’t have a birthright claim to citizenship.
5. What are the requirements for naturalization?
You must maintain lawful permanent residence (a green card) for the five years leading up to your naturalization application (or three years if you’re married to a U.S. citizen and meet other requirements).
You must also:
- Be 18 years or older
- Register for Selective Service (if you are a male between 18 and 26)
- Demonstrate good moral character
- Meet the physical presence requirement (be present in the U.S. for 30 months in the last five years, or 18 months in the last three years if you are married to a U.S. citizen)
- Live in the state or USCIS district where you will apply for at least three months before applying
- Demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking English during your interview
- Demonstrate basic knowledge of U.S. civics and history during your interview
- Take an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. during your naturalization ceremony
Some of these requirements have exceptions and additional details. Get in touch with our legal team for more information.
6. Do I need a sponsor to become a citizen?
No. Sponsors are only required for most immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.
7. What relatives can a U.S. citizen sponsor?
A U.S. citizen can sponsor their spouse, child (regardless of age or marital status), parent (if the U.S. citizen is 21 or older), or sibling (if the U.S. citizen is 21 or older).
U.S. citizens can also bring their foreign-citizen fiancé to the U.S. specifically to get married within 90 days. The fiancé can then adjust their status to lawful permanent residence. Only U.S. citizens (not green card holders) can obtain visas for their fiancés.
8. How should I study for the English and civics assessments?
Unless you have a qualifying disability or you have lived in the U.S. for a certain number of years, you will need to take an English and U.S. civics assessment during your naturalization interview. Fortunately, USCIS provides detailed information about these assessments, as well as study tools in various languages. Your attorney can also help you prepare for every aspect of your interview, including the assessments.
9. What happens if I fail the English or civics tests?
Every naturalization applicant gets two attempts to pass. If you fail the English assessment, civics assessment, or both, USCIS will schedule another interview in 60-90 days, during which you will get a second opportunity to pass. If you fail a second time, you will need to reapply for citizenship. Fortunately, there is no limit to the number of times you can apply for citizenship.
10. I (committed a crime/didn’t pay taxes/declared bankruptcy/etc.). Will I still be eligible for citizenship?
Because the adjudicating officer will assess your records for evidence (or lack thereof) of “good moral character,” certain factors may make it more difficult to become a citizen. However, these factors, among others, typically aren’t enough on their own to prevent you from naturalizing.
Schedule a Free Consultation for Personalized Information
This set of FAQs is designed to provide general guidance, but your situation will require a customized assessment and strategy. If you have additional questions or concerns, our Orange immigration lawyers at the US Legal Group, APC would be more than happy to assist. We have decades of legal experience, and we look forward to helping you achieve your immigration goals efficiently and painlessly.