Citizenship & Naturalization
Naturalization vs. Derivative Citizenship
Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This is done by submitting Form N-400 and supporting documentation with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is the most common way people can become U.S. citizens.
Meanwhile, Derivative Citizenship is when a person may obtain citizenship through their U.S. citizen parents at birth, or after birth but before turning 18. Congress has enacted laws that determine how U.S. citizen parents convey citizenship to children born outside of the United States. This is done by submitting Form N-600 and supporting documentation with USCIS. The process of Derivative Citizenship is not as common, and the requirements are case-specific. If you believe you are entitled to Derivative Citizenship, please contact us, we have experience in processing these types of applications.
Our U.S. Citizenship lawyers in Tampa, Florida have been helping immigrants become naturalized since 1997
Advantages to becoming a U.S. Citizen through Naturalization
Why would you want to become a citizen of the United States?
Many people chose to become U.S. citizens because of the emotional attachment they feel to the country that has given them opportunities and paved the way to their American Dream. Although, once a person is a lawful permanent resident, they can live and work in the United States legally for the rest of their life. One major downfall to being a lawful permanent resident is that it can be taken away if a person becomes involved in a criminal incident that makes them deportable. There are other practical advantages to becoming a U.S. citizen.
- Only U.S. citizens can vote in national and local elections for the leaders of the country. This gives citizens a voice in their communities that non-citizens lack.
- Once a person is a U.S. citizen, he or she cannot be removed or deported from the country for any reason. (Assuming that the citizenship or any of the steps preceding citizenship were not obtained through fraud.)
- U.S. citizenship generally speeds up the process of gaining status for close relatives that the citizen wishes to bring legally to the United States.
Requirements for Naturalization
There are several requirements for those that wish to become U.S. citizens through naturalization.
- Statutory Period:
- The Applicant must have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years before applying for naturalization, OR
- The Applicant must have been a permanent resident for at least 3 years before applying for naturalization if permanent residence was granted on one of the following bases:
- Through marriage to a U.S. citizen and the Applicant is still married to and living with the U.S. citizen spouse, OR
- Through an approved abused spouse petition.
- There is a special exception for those who served honorably in the military during time of war.
- The Applicant must be at least 18 years old.
- The Applicant must have resided in the State where the application is filed for at least three months.
- The Applicant must have been physically present in the United States for at least half of the prescribed Statutory Period listed above and must reside continuously within the United States from the time the application is filed until the application is processed.
- The Applicant must not have been absent from the U.S. for a continuous period of more than one year during the continuous residence period. (An absence for over six months is not recommended, because it raises a presumption against compliance with the continuous period requirement.)
- The Applicant must be a person of “good moral character” for the prescribed Statutory Period listed above.
- The Applicant must demonstrate an elementary level of reading, writing, and understanding English. The Applicant must demonstrate knowledge of the fundamentals of U.S. history and U.S. government.
The “Good Moral Character” Requirement
An Applicant’s lack of Good Moral Character can be found as described under Section 101(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Some reasons for finding lack of Good Moral Character include, but are not limited to, being a habitual drunkard, having committed a drug crime, deriving principle income from illegal gambling, being convicted of two or more gambling offenses, having given false testimony for the purpose of obtaining any benefit under the Act, having at any time been convicted of an aggravated felony, or having been confined, during the statutory period, to a penal institution for 180 days or more regardless of the offense for which confined.
There are other reasons an Applicant can be found lacking Good Moral Character. It is important to note that the specific reasons listed above are not the only reasons. Immigration’s inquiry of an Applicant’s Good Moral Character can be outside of the Statutory Period preceding the application. The Applicant will still need to explain and produce all certified criminal records about any prior arrests, regardless of how long ago the arrests occurred. Some crimes will make an Applicant open to deportation, if an Applicant has crime that makes them deportable immigration will deny the naturalization application and place the Applicant in Removal Proceedings.
Please schedule a consultation with one of our Tampa citizenship lawyers if you have any questions about any prior crimes. Do not risk being placed in removal proceedings before applying for naturalization!
Do You Have A Question Or Need Help?
Talk to an experienced immigration lawyer in Tampa.
The English and Civics Test Requirement
During the naturalization interview, an immigration officer will ask the Applicant basic background information and questions about the application. Unless an Applicant qualifies for an exemption, the Applicant will be required to take a naturalization test which is made up of two components, an English test, and a Civics test.
The English Test
During the English test, the Applicant must demonstrate an understanding of the English language including the ability to read, write, and speak basic English.
The Applicant’s ability to speak and understand English will be determined by the immigration officer while asking the Applicant basic background questions and while going over the application. The Applicant must read aloud a sentence correctly and write out a complete sentence correctly to demonstrate the ability to read and write in English.
English Language Exemptions:
An Applicant is exempt from the English language requirement, but are still required to take the civics test if:
- Applicant is 50 years of age or older at the time of filing for naturalization and has lived as a permanent resident (Green Card holder) in the United States for 20 years
- Applicant is 55 years of age or older at the time of filing for naturalization and has lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years
- Even if Applicant qualifies for one of the English language exceptions listed above, the Applicant must still take the Civics Test.
- The Applicant will be permitted to take the Civics Test in their native language.
- If the Applicant takes the test in their native language, the Applicant must bring an interpreter to the interview. The interpreter must be fluent in both English and Applicant’s native language.
The Civics Test
During the Civics Test, the Applicant will answer important questions about the American government and history. There are a total of 100 questions to study from. The naturalization test and free study materials and resources with sample questions are available directly through the USCIS website. The questions vary from “Who are the senators from your state?”, “Which are the original 13 states?”, to “Who is the current president of the United States?”
Why should you hire us for your Naturalization application?
As there are many benefits to be derived from becoming an American Citizen, there are also risks of being placed in removal proceedings due to the Applicant’s criminal and immigration history. All Applicants should ensure they meet all the statutory requirements for naturalization, as well as ensure their case is thoroughly reviewed and evaluated before deciding to submit the application. Our goal as your citizenship attorney is to ensure we are working diligently for your best interest. We thoroughly review your case to confirm whether naturalization is the best path forward for you. Our clients’ needs and goals are our main priority, and we strive to work together with our clients to meet their goals. Call us today at 813-226-2144 or send us a message to have one of our naturalization attorneys assist you with becoming a U.S. citizen.