Citizenship and Naturalization

US Citizenship and Naturlization

Chicago Citizenship & Naturalization Lawyer

If you are a permanent resident (green card status) you can eventually become a U.S. citizen by an immigration process called “Naturalization.”  As experienced Chicago Citizenship lawyers, we have successfully handled many Naturalization applications for those who want to gain U.S. citizenship. Call (773) 687-0549 or contact Cipolla Law Group online for a consultation.

Naturalization as a Path to U.S. Citizenship

Naturalization is an immigration process that many permanent residents need to take in order to become a U.S. citizen.  While the U.S. citizenship can be gained by birth, it can also be acquired through the naturalization application process or N-400 process. If you are a lawful permanent resident (LPR), the N-400 process is generally the last step that you have to take in order to become a naturalized American citizen.

Benefits of becoming a Naturalized U.S. Citizen

As the United States is a nation that is bound by a shared value of freedom, equity and liberty.  The U.S. citizenship offers many rights and benefits which include but not limited to the following:

  • free to travel outside of the U.S. for as long as you desire
  • free to practice your religion
  • free to express yourself
  • free to vote in elections for public officials
  • you are eligible for federal jobs
  • you can sponsor your parents, fiancé or spouse without a long wait time

Naturalization Requirements

Naturalization is the process of becoming a U.S. citizen by fulfilling the requirements established in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).  The following are the general naturalization requirements for spouses of U.S. citizens residing in the United States:

  1. Age – Applicant must be at least 18 years old at the time of filing for naturalization.
  2. Lawful Admission as a Permanent Resident – Applicant must have been admitted as a lawful permanent resident (green card) for at least 3 years.
  3. *Marriage to U.S. Citizen Spouse – Applicant must continue to be the spouse of the U.S. citizen up until the administration of the Oath of Allegiance.
  4. *Marital Union – Applicant must be living in marital union with the U.S. citizen spouse for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application (the U.S. citizen spouse must have been a U.S. citizen for those 3 years).
  5. Continuous Residence – Applicant must have continuously resided in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application and up to the time of admission to citizenship.
  6. Physical Presence – Applicant must be physically present in the United States for at least 18 months out of the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application.
  7. Jurisdiction – Applicant must have lived within the state or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application.
  8. Good Moral Character – Applicant has the burden to establish good moral character for 3 years prior to filing for naturalization, and during the period leading up to the administration of the Oath of Allegiance.  USCIS has discretion to look beyond this statutory period.
  9. Attachment to Constitutional Principles – Applicant must establish that they are attached to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the US.
  10. English Language Proficiency – Applicant must demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including the ability to read, write and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language.
  11. Knowledge of Civics and History – Applicant must have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government.

*Exceptions apply.  See details below. 

Citizenship Naturalization FAQs

Can you get U.S. citizenship if you commit a crime?

If you are planning to become a U.S. citizen but have a criminal history you should discuss it with an experienced immigration lawyer.  While not all crimes will prevent you from becoming a citizen, certain crimes such as a felony conviction can affect citizenship. Click here to learn more how crime convictions can affect your citizenship. If you have crime convictions or have been charged, arrested or detained, please feel free to schedule a consultation with our immigration lawyers to discuss how your criminal history so you can plan your naturalization properly.

How to proof “Good moral character” for naturalization?

One of the key requirements for a naturalization application is to prove that the applicant is a person of “good moral character”(GMC).  GMC means the character is as good as the average citizens of the community in which the applicant lives.  While certain criminal records or offense will likely prevent applicants to establish GMC, the law does not clearly define the meaning of GMC. 

If you have past criminal charges, convictions or offense that you believe would prevent you from gaining your citizenship, please contact our experienced Chicago citizenship and naturalization lawyers today.  We can review any of your past police and court documents and determine if you can establish GMC for your naturalization application.

What crimes affect citizenship?

If you are planning to become a U.S. citizen but have a criminal history you should discuss it with an experienced immigration lawyer.  While not all crimes will prevent you from becoming a citizen, certain crimes will bar you either permanently or temporarily from citizenship.  Below is a list of common offenses or acts that affect applicants from establishing GMC for their naturalization applications:
– made a false claim of U.S. citizen – such as for employment opportunity or benefits.
– registered to vote in the Federal, State, or local election.
– committed certain criminal offenses.

Can I lose my citizenship if I’m divorced?

You can still naturalize and become a U.S. citizen even after a divorce or have divorced your former spouse who petitioned for your permanent residence (green card).  If you are the spouse, former spouse and intended spouse of a U.S. citizen subjected to battering or extreme cruelty, you are exempt from the marital union requirement. This includes persons who obtained lawful permanent resident (LPR) status on the basis of the following:
an approved Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant (VAWA); cancellation or removal in cases where the applicant was the spouse or intended spouse of a U.S. citizen who subjected him/her to battering or extreme cruelty; or an approved waiver of the joint filing requirement for petitions to remove conditions for conditional LPRs, if the marriage was entered into in good faith and the spouse was subjected to battering or extreme cruelty by the U.S. citizen spouse.

Will I have any problems for citizenship if I smoke Marijuana in a legal state?

The U.S. Immigration (USCIS) has made it clear that even though it’s legal to use marijuana in certain States, marijuana usage will hurt your citizenship as it is not legal federally. Click here to learn more about the impact of Marijuana usage and citizenship for U.S. residents.

Naturalization Process | Steps to Citizenship

The naturalization process is generally divided into four steps.  First, if the applicant is eligible to naturalize, he or she must file an N-400 naturalization application with the USCIS.  The N-400 can be filed by the applicant him/herself or with the help of an immigration attorney.  When your naturalization application is received, the USCIS will schedule a biometrics appointment with the applicant.  Following the biometrics appointment, a naturalization interview will then be scheduled.

Naturalization 4 steps:

  1. Permanent residence files an N-400 Naturalization Application.
  2. Schedule a Naturalization biometrics appointment.
  3. Attend your naturalization biometrics appointment.
  4. Attend your naturalization interview.

Citizenship through Marriage with U.S. Citizens

If you obtain your green card through marriage with a U.S. citizen, you will be eligible for citizenship through naturalization. While the general naturalization rules apply, you can apply for citizenship in three years instead of five years. The shorter wait time is definitely an advantage over other applicants who gain their green cards through other means. However, you will still be subject to the same naturalization requirements as all other green card holders.

Citizenship through Marriage Timeline

Citizenship through marriage timeline

After an N-400 application is filed with USCIS, applicant’s biometrics will be taken.  A naturalization interview will then be scheduled.  For the past 2 years, USCIS has been experiencing extreme backlogs with N-400 cases.  It’s taking around a year for N-400 cases to be adjudicated, depending on the USCIS district office.  Once an interview is scheduled, applicant must attend the interview, where he/she will be interviewed about their application and background.  During the interview, applicant must also pass the civic and English exams.

If the N-400 is approved, the applicant must go to the Naturalization Ceremony where he/she will return their Permanent Resident Card and take the Oath of Allegiance.  After taking the Oath of Allegiance, the applicant will receive their Certificate of Naturalization.  The Certificate of Naturalization is evidence of their U.S. citizenship.

Naturalization through Military Service

On January 19, 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule that changes the DHS’s regulations by implementing a statutory amendment reducing from three years to one year the length of time a member of the United States Armed Forces has to serve to qualify for naturalization through service in the Armed Forces. In addition, this rule also amends DHS regulations by implementing a statutory amendment to include as eligible for naturalization individuals who served or are serving as members of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve of the U.S. Armed Forces during specified periods of hostility. This rule also eliminates the need to submit G-325B, Biographic Information.

In the past, aliens who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during peacetime were eligible for naturalization only after serving for period of three years and only those who were in active status were eligible to naturalize. Until 2003, the government reduced the three years requirement to one year for alien Army in active status during peacetime. They further extended the benefit of naturalization to individuals who have served as members of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve of the U.S. Armed Forces during such periods of hostilities.

Experienced Chicago Citizenship Naturalization Lawyer

If you have any questions about your eligibility, especially if you are divorced, have been a victim of domestic violence, or concerned about your past criminal history, please call (773) 687-0549 or contact Cipolla Law Group for a consultation. 

If retained for your naturalization case, our Chicago Citizenship Lawyers will prepare your case from start to finish, provide a mock interview to prepare you for the interview, and attend the interview with you if it is scheduled at the USCIS Chicago Field Office. Our offices are conveniently located at downtown Chicago and Lincoln Park, Chicago.  Contact us today and find out how we can help you to naturalize to become a U.S. citizen.

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