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300 S. Daytona Ave., #877, Flagler Beach, FL 32136
 Office: (386) 338-3462 | Fax: (386) 463-5373 

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5533 Southwyck Blvd., Suite 101, Toledo, OH 43614
Office: (419) 867-9966 | Fax: (386) 463-5373
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NATURALIZATION

 U.S. citizenship is attained through one of two ways: birth or naturalization. If one is not a U.S. citizen by birth or did not acquire U.S. citizenship automatically after birth, then he or she may apply for naturalization through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Most applicants are required to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. However, if one is applying for citizenship for a child under the age of 18 years old, he or she should use Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship or Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of a Certificate under Section 322.

As evidenced by the various application forms, there are several different ways to qualify for naturalization. The vast majority of applicants (over 90%) qualify for citizenship based on the following criteria:

  • Must be at least 18 years old.
  • Has been a U.S. permanent resident for the past five years.
  • Has not left the U.S. for trips of six months or longer since becoming a permanent resident.
  • Has resided as a resident in a USCIS district or U.S. state.
  • Possesses good moral character.
  • Meets the English and Civics requirements.
  • Takes the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. and the U.S. Constitution.

Alternatively, if an applicant is at least 18 years old and is currently married to and living with a U.S. citizen, he or she may apply for citizenship earlier than applicants who fall under the aforementioned category. The requirements are as follows:

  • Must be at least 18 years old.
  • Is married to and living with a U.S. citizen.
  • Has been married to and living with that same U.S. citizen for the past three years.
  • Has not left the U.S. for trips of six months or longer since becoming a permanent resident.
  • Has resided as a resident in a USCIS district or U.S. state.
  • U.S. citizen-spouse has been a U.S. citizen for at least three years.
  • Possesses good moral character.
  • Meets the English and Civics requirements.
  • Takes the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. and the U.S. Constitution.
Continuous Residence and Physical Presence

As mentioned above, two of the criteria for a naturalization application to be deemed approvable are 1) continuous residence in the U.S. and 2) physical presence in the U.S. What is the difference between "continuous residence" and "physical presence?"

"Continuous residence" refers to remaining in the U.S without long periods of absence. If an individual has left the U.S. for more than 6 months, but less than one year, then the applicant has disrupted his or her continuous residence. Certain provisions allow a few types of applicants to remain abroad more than one year without disrupting continuous residence. If you fall into one such category, you must file Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes.

"Physical presence" means that an applicant has been physically present in the U.S. Most applicants must be present in the U.S. for a certain period of time in order to be eligible for naturalization.

To summarize, "continuous residence" concerns the time an applicant resided lawfully in the U.S. without any single absence long enough to break continuity for naturalization purposes. "Physical presence" concerns the total number of days an applicant resided in the U.S. during the period required for naturalization.

Good Moral Character

As mentioned above, to meet the requirements for citizenship, an applicant must be "of good moral character." The USCIS will consider several factors in determining the moral character of an applicant, including, but not limited to:

  • Any crime against a person with intent to harm.
  • Any crime against property or the Government that involves "fraud" or evil intent.
  • Two or more crimes for which the aggregate sentence was 5 years or more.
  • Violating any controlled substance law of the U.S., any state, or foreign country.
  • Habitual drunkenness or drunk driving.
  • Illegal gambling.
  • Prostitution
  • Polygamy
  • Lying to obtain immigration benefits.
  • Failing to pay court-ordered child support or alimony payments.
  • Confinement in jail, prison, or similar institution for which the total confinement was 180 days or more during the past five years (or three years if you are applying based on your marriage to a U.S. citizen.)
  • Failure to complete any probation, parole, or suspended sentence before applying for naturalization.
  • Terrorist acts.
  • Persecution of anyone because of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group.

It is critical that applicants are honest with the USCIS about all prior arrests (even if not charged or convicted), convictions (even if the record was cleared or expunged), and even crimes committed for which there was no arrest or conviction. The USCIS officer will accept evidence in the applicant's favor concerning the circumstances of the arrests, convictions, and/or offenses, so it is important to submit all such documentation with the application. If an applicant fails to tell the USCIS about his or her criminal history, the USCIS may deny the application upon conducting a background check. The only exception to this rule: an applicant does not need to submit documentation of traffic fines and incidents that did not involve an actual arrest if the only penalty was a fine less than $500 and/or points on a driver's license, as long as alcohol and/or drugs were not involved.

If an applicant does not tell the truth during his or her interview and the USCIS finds out, the USCIS may deny his or her application for lacking good moral character. If the USCIS grants naturalization to an applicant who is later found to have lied during the interview, the USCIS may revoke this individual's citizenship.

English and Civics Requirement

In order to meet the eligibility requirements for naturalization, an applicant must be able to read, write, and speak basic English, as well as possess a basic knowledge of U.S. "civics" (history and government.) Below, please find the USCIS link to sample civics questions:

http://www.uscis.gov/resources

Test your knowledge

Some applicants have difficulty with the English and civics requirements based on age and/or physical disability and there are provisions for such applicants:

  • If you are over 50 years old and have lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for periods totaling at least 20 years, you are not required to take the English test. However, you must take the Civics test in the language of your choice.
  • If you are over 55 years old and have lived in the U.S. as a Permanent Resident for periods totaling at least 15 years, you do not have to take the English test. However, you must take the civics test in the language of your choice.
  • If you are over 65 years old and have lived in the U.S. as a Permanent Resident for periods totaling at least 20 years, you do not have to take the English test, but you do have to take a simpler version of the civics test in the language of your choice.
  • If you have a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment so severe that it prevents you from acquiring or demonstrating the required knowledge of English and civics, you may be eligible for an exemption to these requirements. To request an exemption, you must file Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions.

Note: You must be prepared to bring an interpreter if you qualify for a waiver of the English proficiency requirement.

Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution

All applicants for naturalization must declare "attachment" to the U.S. and the U.S. Constitution by taking the Oath of Allegiance. One does not actually become a U.S. citizen until one has taken the Oath of Allegiance. The oath requires an applicant to promise three things:

  1. Renounce foreign allegiances
  2. Support and defend the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the U.S.
  3. Serve the U.S. if required by law

Male applicants who were living in the U.S. in any status other than that of a non-immigrant between the ages of 18 and 25 must be registered with the Selective Service System. Applicants must provide Selective Service numbers to the USCIS upon filing applications. If you are male and entered the U.S. after turning 26 years old, you are not required to register.

Wynn Law Offices has extensive experience in filing successful naturalization applications and are available to answer your questions regarding the process.