Things to Keep in Mind While Applying for Citizenship

February 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Eligibility:

You have to fulfill certain requirements in order to qualify for citizenship. You have

– To be 18 years or older.

– To be a permanent resident (Green Card holder) at present and during all of the past 5 years.

– Resided in the US for a continuous period prior to the filing the citizenship application. If you are not married to a US citizen, you should have resided in the US for a continuous period of 5 years after coming to the US as a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). Whereas, if you are married to a US citizen, you should have resided in the US for a continuous period of 3 years after admission to the US as a green card holder.

– Met continuous residence requirement. If married to a US citizen, you must have been physically present in the US for 18 months accumulatively within 3 years prior to the date of applying for US citizenship. If you are not married to a US citizen, you should have been physically present in the US accumulatively for 30 months within 5 years before the date of filing the US citizenship application. This requirement is not continuous but cumulative. You can leave and enter the U.S within the 3 or 5 years as much as you want as long as you do not break the continuity, and as long as your total time spent in the US adds up to 18 or 30 months respectively.

– Resided in your current state for at least 3 months before filing the citizenship application. Current state is the state where you are filing the citizenship application.

– Not broken any US immigration law and that you have not been ordered to leave the US.

– Not been a member of the Communist Party any time during the past 10 years.

– At least 5 years of good moral character and that you believe in the principles of the US constitution.

– The ability to speak, read and write simple English and that you can pass the test on US history and government.

– To take an oath of allegiance to the US.

Preparing the Citizenship Application:

If you meet all the eligibility requirements mentioned above, the next step is to apply for Citizenship. You have to mail the citizenship application along with photos, fees and supporting documents to the USCIS. You will then receive a letter of appointment from the USCIS for fingerprinting. Wait till you receive a letter of appointment from the USCIS for your interview. The USCIS will send a letter (Notice of Action) to you, mentioning the date, time and location of the appointment. You will be required to take the Civics and English Language tests which is done to test your knowledge of English Language, US history and of the US government. If all goes well, you will be called to take the Oath and receive your Certificate of Naturalization.

If you miss the Oath Ceremony, you should return the Form N-445, the “Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony”, to your local USCIS office. While returning the form, you should also include a letter explaining why you were not able to make it to the scheduled ceremony. The USCIS will then reschedule your Oath Ceremony date and will mail you a new Form N-445 (Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony).

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The Naturalization Process

February 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

Get the Application for Naturalization , Form N-400

Complete the N-400 application.

Have two passport-style photographs taken.

Get the necessary supporting documents ready.

Mail your citizenship application along with passport-style photographs, documents, and fee to the appropriate Service Center.

Note : Do not send cash.

Make a copy of everything you send to USCIS.

You will get an appointment letter from USCIS.

Go to location mentioned in the letter and get your fingerprints taken.

If USCIS requests for additional documents, mail them

Wait till you receive an appointment for your interview.

Go to your local USCIS office mentioned in the letter at the specified time.

If USCIS requests, bring identification and provide additional documents. Having two additional passport-style photographs at the time of interview will be handy.

You have to answer questions about your application package and background.

Take the citizenship test (English and Civics).

If your case is approved, you will be notified about the ceremony date.

At the ceremony, return your Permanent Resident Card (green card)

You will be required to answer a few questions about what you have done since your interview.

Take the Oath of Allegiance.

Finally, receive your Certificate of Naturalization.

US Citizenship For Military Personnel

February 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Members of the United States Armed Forces who want to become U.S. citizens may be eligible to apply under special provisions under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Generally, U.S. Armed Forces can be understood as service in one of the following branches:

  • Army
  • Navy
  • Marine Corps
  • Air Force
  • Coast Guard
  • Certain Reserve components of the National Guard
  • Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve

Certain changes in some sections of the INA (Sections 328 and 329) have made it easier for military personnel to become U.S. citizens if they want to file a citizenship application.

There are certain requirements and qualifications that have to be met in order for you to become a U.S. Citizen. You have to prove

  • you have good moral character
  • you have knowledge of the English language
  • you have knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics)
  • your attachment to the US by taking an oath of allegiance to the U.S. Constitution

As members of the military there are certain eligibility requirements that you may be exempted from, including the necessary residency and physical presence in the United States.

Section 328 of INA is for all members serving in the U.S. Armed Forces at present or those who have already been discharged from service.

You will qualify under this section if :

  • you have honorably served for a total of one or more years.
  • You are a lawful permanent resident ( green card holder).
  • You will be filing the US citizenship form while still in service or within six months of being discharged.

Section 329 of INA is for members of the U.S. Armed Forces who serve at present or have served in active-duty during the periods of conflict as mentioned in the INA (1 st September 1939-31st December 1946; 25th June 1950-1 st July 1955 and 28th February 1961-5th October 1978) or additional period designated by the President in an Executive Order.

You will qualify under this section if :

  • you served in the U.S. Armed Forces honorably during a period of conflict.
  • you were lawfully admitted as a permanent resident (green card holder) of the US after enlistment, OR at the time of enlistment, re-enlistment or induction, you were physically present in the US or a qualifying territory.

Recently , the President signed an Executive Order that states 11th September 2001 and after as a period of conflict.

 

The US Citizenship Test Process

February 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

During the US citizenship test and interview, a USCIS Official will ask you questions about your application package and background. To be eligible for citizenship, applicants should take the US citizenship test which comprises of English language and civics. Generally, applicants should prove that they can read, write and speak basic English and also that they have basic knowledge of US history and government. Reading, writing, and speaking form a part of the English test whereas the civics test covers important U.S. history and government topics.

While testing your reading ability, you will be required to read one out of three sentences correctly to prove your ability to read in English. To prove your writing ability, you have to write one out of three sentences correctly. Your speaking ability will, in fact be checked by the way you answer the interview questions. In civics, there are 100 questions. During the interview, you will be asked around 10 questions from the list of 100 questions. You should answer at least six questions correctly to pass the civics test. In case you fail any section of the test, you will be tested again on the same section of the test that you failed within 90 days.

There are some applicants who are exempted from taking the English language and civics test. If you are above 50 years of age and have been a permanent resident for periods totaling at least 20 years, then you need not take the English test. You have to take the civics test, but you can take the test in a language of your choice. If you fall in this category, you should mark 50/20 in red on top of your citizenship application.

If you are above 55 years of age and been a permanent resident for periods totaling at least 15 years, then you need not take the English test. Even in this category, you have to take the Civics test and can take the test in a language of your choice. If you come under this category, you should mark 55/15 in red on top of your citizenship application.

If you are above 65 years of age and have been a permanent resident for periods totaling at least 20 years, then you need not take the English test. Even here, you have to take the civics test and can take the test in a language of your choice. But this test will be a simpler version. You will be asked 10 questions form the list of 25. If you fall under this category, you should mark 65/20 in red on top of your citizenship application.

If any applicant has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment and if that impairment affects his/her ability to learn English and civics, then he/she is eligible for an exception from the US citizenship test. Form N-648 needs to be filed along with the citizenship application Form N-400, to request such an exception.

In situations where you are eligible for a waiver of the English proficiency requirement, you should be prepared to bring an interpreter. The test is not a multiple choice test. Your civics knowledge will be tested orally. The interviewing officer will ask ten from the set of 100 questions. You should be able to answer six out of ten questions correctly to pass the civics test.

Can a Child Claim Citizenship Based on Parents’ Status?

February 10, 2011 § 2 Comments

Very few are aware of the fact that children born outside the US to US citizen parents can claim US citizenship through their parents’ status if they meet certain requirements. This also depends on the laws that existed at the time the child was born. Another important aspect is that if you were born in the United States, you automatically are a US citizen.

Form N-600:

Children born in the US can just apply for a US passport as a proof of their US citizenship status. If you want to document your US citizenship status based on citizen parentage, you can file Form N- 600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship with the USCIS. There are many eligibility requirements to be met before applying for child citizenship. One criteria requires a combination of at least one parent being a U.S. citizen when the child was born and having lived in the U.S. or its possessions for a certain period of time. Children born outside the US may also claim US citizenship for children after birth based on their parents’ citizenship or naturalization.

As mentioned earlier, you can automatically become a U.S. citizen when certain conditions are met. You should be under the age of 18 and at least one parent of yours should be a U.S. citizen, whether by birth or naturalization. You should reside in the United States in the legal and physical custody of your U.S. citizen parent and be subject to lawful admission for permanent residence. But how do you know if you qualify under child citizenship? Basically, to qualify as a “child” for the purpose of getting a certificate of citizenship through parents’ status, the applicant should not be married. Children born out of wedlock should be “legitimated” before the age of 16 and when in the legal custody of the legitimating parent. But a stepchild who was not adopted will not qualify as a “child” under this category. If you meet the above mentioned requirements before turning 18, you automatically get US citizenship without having to file an application. However, to document this citizenship status, you have to file Form N-600 with the USCIS,
per the Child Citizenship Act (CCA), persons who were 18 years of age or older as of February 27, 2001 do not qualify under child citizenship. Persons above the age of 18 as on February 27, 2001, may qualify to apply for a citizenship certificate under the law in effect before the enactment of the CCA.

What if you lived outside the United States?

Biological or adopted children who regularly reside outside the US may qualify for citizenship. However, they must meet certain requirements to get a US citizenship certificate. In this category, at least one parent of the child should be a U.S. citizen or, if deceased, the parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of death. Additionally the US citizen parent should have been physically present in the US or its outlying possessions for at least 5 years, at least two of which were after reaching the age of 14. And certainly, the applicant should be under the age of 18 years. Apart from these, the applicant should be residing outside the US in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent and finally, the applicant is temporarily present in the US after having entered lawfully and is maintaining lawful status in the United States.

Benefits Of Being A U.S. Citizen

February 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

U.S. Immigration laws give many rights to US citizens and to non- citizens as well. But some privileges can be enjoyed only by the citizens. As a U.S. citizen, one has the right to vote in the US federal elections. Another advantage is the that, you can reunite families. US citizens can bring their loved ones to be with them in the US. They can also bring their fiance through the K1 visa or bring their spouse and children through the K-3, K-4 category. US citizens having unmarried children under 21 years old can sponsor them as “Immediate Relatives”. Another significant fact is that only U.S. citizens can sponsor their parents for a green card. Additionally, citizens’ children may be eligible for citizenship based on their parents’ status as US citizens.

Additionally US citizens do not have any restriction to enter/ exit the US. The time they spend outside the U.S. is not limited. And it is also helps in travel abroad as some countries do not need visas of US citizens. Another benefit is that only a US citizen can apply for a US passport. With a U.S. Passport, one can get assistance from the U.S. Government while being overseas. Citizens will also be eligible for federal jobs in the US. and can also become an elected official.

If a Legal Permanent Resident (green card holder) is accused of any illegal activity, there are chances where they can be deported. Whereas US citizens have the right to an attorney and a fair trial and need not face the situation of being deported. These are only a few of the advantages of US citizenship.

 

How Can I Become a US citizen?

February 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

It is a dream for many immigrants to become citizens of the United States. There are two ways through which you can become a citizen of the US. It is either by birth or through Naturalization. Naturalization is the process where a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen. An applicant who wishes to become citizen of the US should file Form N- 400, the citizenship application.

The Eligibility Requirements :

All applicants need to meet certain strict eligibility requirements to become citizen of the US. The applicant should be:

  • 18 years or older.
  • a permanent resident (Green Card holder). In normal circumstances, he/she should be a permanent resident for five years to be eligible to file the N 400 application. If married to a US citizen, then it is three years of permanent residency. It is that the applicant has to be in marriage to a U.S citizen and should be living with that U.S citizen for the past 3 three years of his/her permanent residency for the criteria to be applicable.
  • residing in the United States for a continuous period before filing the citizenship application. If the applicant is not married to an American citizen, he/she should reside in the U.S. for a continuous period of five years after admission to the U.S. as a permanent resident. If married to a U.S. citizen, he/she must reside in the U.S. for a continuous period of three years following admission to the U.S. as a permanent resident.

A long absence from the U.S. will break the continuity of the applicant’s residence in the U.S. for naturalization purposes. It, however may not affect one’s ability to return to the U.S. as a permanent resident. Though an absence from the U.S. of less than six months will not break the continuity of residence in the U.S. for citizenship purposes, absence for a period of six months or more breaks the continuity of residence. However, if the break is between six months and one year, it can be excused if a reasonable explanation can be provided for the absence (e.g. overseas employment). If the break is for over one year, the continuity of residence can be preserved and the break excused, if necessary steps are taken prior to the expiration of a year abroad to preserve the residence and if the applicant meets certain qualifications.

Additionally, the applicant should have met physical presence requirements too. He/she should be physically present in the US for a certain number of months to be eligible to file the citizenship application. Before applying for US citizenship, the applicant should have resided in his/her current state for at least three months. Here, current state means the state where he/she is submitting the N 400 application.

Another significant factor is that the applicant should not have broken any US immigration laws and should not have been ordered to leave the US. Applicants should also prove at least 5 years of good moral character.

Apart from these, applicants should be prepared to take an English language test and a Civics test. Normally, citizenship applicants should establish to the satisfaction of the interviewing officer that they can read, write and speak basic English and that they also have basic knowledge of US history and government. Certain applicants can be exempted if they have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where it affects their ability to learn English and Civics. And lastly, applicants should be prepared to take an oath of allegiance to the United States to finally become citizen of the United States.

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