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How to become a US Citizen?

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Immigration attorney lawyer Miami Florida Oleg Otten US Citizen

How to get US citizenship?

Ultimately, the goal of most immigration clients of Otten Law Firm is to become U.S. citizens. When an immigrant becomes a citizen, it’s called Naturalization.

According to the U.S. immigration law, to naturalize, a person must:

  1. Be lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States;
  2. Reside continuously in the U.S. as a permanent resident for at least five (or, in some cases, three) years;
  3. Be physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the time during the past five (or three) years;
  4. Be a person of good moral character, support the Constitution of the United States, and desire good-order and happiness for the United States.

Lawful Admission for Permanent Residence

For naturalization, it’s not enough to simply obtain a green card. The applicant must have been lawfully entitled to receiving permanent residence. If the applicant received a green card through fraud or by mistake, and then naturalized, his or her citizenship can be taken away via a denaturalization process.

By the way, normally, only a person who is 18 years old or older may apply for naturalization.

Continuous Residence

Miami Immigration attorney recommends clients, who are green card holders, to not leave the U.S. for long periods of time, because it may have a negative effect on their future naturalization. If a person travels abroad for too long, the government may consider that he interrupted his continuous residence in the United States.

Generally, travel abroad for less than six months will not interrupt the continuous residence. Travel for up to a year will raise a rebuttable presumption that the immigrant abandoned his residence in the U.S. for purposes of naturalization. If you travel for longer than a year, you break your continuous presence in the U.S. If you intend to travel abroad for over a year, Miami immigration attorney recommends obtaining a valid reentry permit before you leave the U.S.

While the general rule is that the immigrant must reside in the U.S. for five years before applying for citizenship, if you became a permanent resident by marrying an American, and you have been living together as a married couple for the past three years, you are required to prove only three years of continuous residence. Also, if you were married to the US citizen and got your green card by self-petitioning through Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), you may apply for naturalization after just three years as well.

Additionally, an applicant is required to reside continuously in the United States from the date of application until the date when she is sworn in as a US citizen.

Physical Presence

In general, naturalization applicants should be physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the total required period of continuous residence. It means that if you are required to have five years of continuous residence, then you should be physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 out of the required 60 months. If you got your green card through marriage and are required to reside in the U.S. for just three years before applying for citizenship, then you would need to prove only 18 months of physical presence (half of 36 months of the continuous residence).

Additionally, you are required to reside within the state or district of the USCIS office where you are filing the application for naturalization for at least three months immediately before you are filing the application.

Good Moral Character

To become a US citizen, the applicant must possess good moral character. Relevant period of time for demonstrating good moral character is five (or three) years before filing the application as well as the time it takes the government to process the application. But the government may take into account your earlier history. Good moral character doesn’t mean you have to be a perfect person. The government decides if an applicant possesses the good moral character on a case by case basis. If you made mistakes in the past, it doesn’t necessarily mean you may never become a U.S. citizen. But you have to prepare evidence to persuade the USCIS that you learned from your mistakes and that you are a different – and a better – person now.

Immigration law created three levels of bars that prevent a person from establishing good moral character:

  1. Permanent bar: applicant will not be able to prove good moral character regardless of how long ago he committed the bad act (for example, an aggravated felony)
  2. Conditional bar: applies to people who committed bad acts during the required period of maintaining good moral character (for example, drunkards, small-time criminals, some gamblers and liars)
  3. Presumptive bar: some bad acts (e.g. failing to pay child support) can be outweigh by good acts, but the good acts must be proven

In some situations, applying for naturalization can trigger deportation proceedings. Therefore, it’s important to carefully analyze all the facts of your case before filing a naturalization application.

Oath of Allegiance

Finally, after your naturalization application is approved, you’ve proven your good moral character, and passed the English language and Civics tests, you will be invited to a ceremony of taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. The Oath states:

“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.”

Miami immigration attorney Oleg Otten will help you navigate your path to becoming a US citizen.

Email Miami Immigration Attorney directly: info@ottenlawfirm.com

To schedule a consultation, please visit Legal Consultation page

Miami Naturalization lawyer Oleg Otten