“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is conferred upon a foreign citizen or national. To be eligible for naturalization, the applicant must;
- be at least 18 years old;
- have a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
- demonstrate an ability to read, write, and speak English;
- demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government; and
- be a person of good moral character.
All naturalization applicants must demonstrate good moral character, attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and favorable disposition toward the United States. However, many of the other requirements may be modified or waived for certain applicants.
Immediately preceding the filing of the naturalization application, the applicant must demonstrate that he or she:
- has been lawfully admitted for permanent residence (Note: this requirement may not apply to members of the military who served honorably during times of conflict);
- has resided continuously as a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. for at least 5 years prior to filing, with no single absence from the United States of more than one year (Note: this requirement may vary for spouses of U.S. citizens, members of the military, and spouses of U.S. citizens stationed or employed abroad);
- has been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the previous five years (Note: absences of more than six months but less than one year may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence unless the applicant can prove otherwise. Moreover, this requirement may vary for spouses of U.S. citizens, members of the military, and spouses of U.S. citizens stationed or employed abroad); and
- has resided within a state or district of the United States for at least three months.
Applicants for naturalization must be able to read, write, speak, and understand words in ordinary usage in the English language. Applicants exempt from this requirement are those who on the date of filing:
- have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for periods totaling 15 years or more and are over 55 years of age;
- have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for periods totaling 20 years or more and are over 50 years of age; or
- have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects the applicant’s ability to learn English.
An applicant for naturalization must demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history and of the principles and form of government of the United States. Applicants exempt from this requirement are those who, on the date of filing, have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects the applicant’s ability to learn. Moreover, applicants who have been residing in the U.S. subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for at least 20 years and are over the age of 65 will be afforded special consideration in satisfying this requirement.
An applicant is permanently barred from naturalization if he or she has been convicted of an aggravated felony as defined in section 101(a)(43) of the Immigration and Nationality Act on or after November 29, 1990. Additionally, an applicant may not be found to be a person of good moral character if during the statutory period he or she:
- has committed and been convicted of one or more crimes involving moral turpitude;
- has committed and been convicted of 2 or more offenses for which the total sentence imposed was 5 years or more;
- has committed and been convicted of any controlled substance law;
- has been confined to a penal institution during the statutory period, as a result of a conviction, for an aggregate period of 180 days or more;
- has committed and been convicted of two or more gambling offenses;
- is or has earned his or her principal income from illegal gambling;
- is or has been involved in prostitution or commercialized vice;
- is or has been involved in smuggling illegal aliens into the United States;
- is or has been a habitual drunkard;
- is practicing or has practiced polygamy;
- has willfully failed or refused to support dependents; and/or
- has given false testimony, under oath, in order to receive a benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
It is important to note that persons with a criminal history who apply for citizenship may find themselves in removal (deportation) proceedings, in addition to having their citizenship denied. No one who has ever been arrested, even if they do not think they have a conviction, should ever apply for citizenship without speaking to an immigration attorney. Diaz Shafer, P.A. can evaluate your criminal history and determine if that criminal history makes you ineligible for naturalization or creates a risk of removal or deportation.
Overseas and expedited processing of naturalization applications may be available to service members, certain veterans of the U.S. armed forces, and certain military family members.
The general requirements and qualifications that an applicant for naturalization must meet in order to become a U.S. citizen include:
- good moral character;
- residence and physical presence in the U.S.;
- knowledge of the English language;
- knowledge of U.S. government and history; and
- attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution.
Periods of residence and physical presence in the United States required for naturalization may not apply to military members and certain family members. Moreover, qualifying children of military members may not need to be present in the United States to acquire citizenship. Moreover, qualifying applicants may be able to complete the entire process from overseas.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services provides a dedicated help line for members of the military and their families: 1-877-CIS-4MIL (1-877-247-4645).
The laws regarding citizenship derived through a parent have changed over the years and different laws apply to determine whether you automatically became a U.S. citizen at birth, or after birth but before your 18th birthday. In any case, the law in effect on the date of your birth applies.
If pursuing U.S. citizenship after birth, but before reaching 18 years of age, the following conditions must be met:
- your parent must be a U.S. citizen;
- you must be the biological child of that U.S. citizen parent;
- you must be lawfully admitted to the United States for lawful permanent residence; and
- you must be living in the United States in the legal and physical custody of your U.S. citizen parent.
An adopted child may also acquire U.S. citizenship through his or her adoptive U.S. citizen parent, depending on the law being applied.
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United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
National Visa Center
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin
Executive Office of Immigration Review
Board of Immigration Appeals
U.S. Supreme Court
American Immigration Lawyers Association
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
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