So, you have thought about applying for citizenship but don't know where to start. To begin with, you should know that the process for applying for citizenship can be a long and complicated process. Hiring an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney can help you throughout the process. Below are a few things you need to know before you apply for citizenship.
The first thing you should know is that you must be a legal permanent resident before you can apply for citizenship. If you are not a legal permanent resident, you cannot apply for citizenship. If you are a legal permanent resident, then congratulations, you have accomplished the first step in becoming a US citizen.
Having obtained your legal permanent residence status, you know that there are different routes a person can go through in order to obtain legal permanent residency. Because of this, the amount of time you have had to spend as a legal permanent resident before you can apply for citizenship depends on how you obtain your legal permanent residency.
Another things you should be made aware of before you apply for citizenship is how long you have to be in the United States. This doesn't mean that you have to spend all your time in the United States, that would be impractical. As a legal permanent residence, you are allowed to travel and leave the country so forcing you to stay in the United States without being able to leave is unrealistic. Just make sure that any trip you have taken outside the US did not last longer than 6 months. This also includes taking long trips and returning for a few days and then taking another long trip. The US may consider these trips as one continuous trip. The US government will ask you to list all the trips you have taken outside the US in the 5 years before applying for citizenship.
You do however have to show that you have had a residence in the United States continuously. This doesn't mean you have had to live in the same place the whole time, you are allowed to move. Your residency though has to be within the United States, and it has to be continuous. The rule states that you must have been physically present in the United States for a minimum of 30 months of the 5 years before you applied for citizenship. This means that from the time you apply for citizenship, 5 years before that you must have spent 30 months (2 ½ years) of that time in the United States.
The next thing you need to know is that you need to be a person of good moral character to apply for citizenship. This means that you must not have been guilty of any crimes (especially felonies). Not only does showing good moral character benefit you in the long run by keeping you out of jail, but it also reflects well on your application. Another way to show you have good moral character is by not being tied up in public scandals, civil litigation where you are the one being sued, or lied or conducted misrepresentation on any official document.
If you are able to meet the above requirements and make it through the whole process, you have one last thing to take care of: a civics test. This is a test that will test you on your understanding of English (how to read, write, and speak), your knowledge of US history, and your knowledge of US government. You must pass this test before you are eligible for citizenship. There are a few exemptions to the test, but it usually only affects people over the age of 50 or people who have a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment.
Finally, if you are a male between the ages of 18-26, when you gained legal permanent residence you must have registered for Selective Service. If you obtained your legal permanent residence at during these years of your life and are a male, but did not, you will be required to explain why you failed to register for the selective services.
This is an immigration legal blog. It is not intended to be used as legal advice. For further information please contact the law offices of attorney Ramona Kennedy.
Ramona Kennedy (Attorney) received her Jurisprudence Doctorate in America and is a licensed attorney in California (USA). Ramona Kennedy is a member of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Ramona Kennedy is fluent in English and Farsi (reading & writing) & speaks Azeri Turkish.
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