The ultimate achievement in most people’s immigration outlook is U.S. citizenship. Becoming a U.S. citizen is considered by many immigrants the realization of a life-long dream. It is the highest form of immigration benefit a foreign national can get. Call Galstyan Law Firm at 800-939-8004 to get help applying for citizenship.
There is considerable confusion about how green cards compare to U.S. citizenship. Many people believe the only difference is that U.S. citizens can vote, while those who have green cards cannot. Of equal importance, however, is the fact that even if you live outside the U.S. indefinitely or commit a crime, you can keep your U.S. citizenship once you get it. Under the same circumstances, you might lose a green card.
In all but a very few special cases, no one can apply directly for U.S. citizenship. You must first get a green card and live in the U.S. as a permanent resident for a certain length of time. Then you must go through an application process called naturalization.
Occasionally, a person born or raised in another nation is already a U.S. citizen but doesn’t know it. This happens most often when a foreign national has an American parent or grandparent who was taken from the U.S. at an early age. Usually, the parent or grandparent is also unaware of a claim to U.S. citizenship. This is especially true where the U.S. citizen is a grandparent who passes U.S. citizenship to a parent, who in turn passes it to the foreign national. The skipping of a generation adds to the confusion. U.S. citizenship is not an easy thing to lose. If there is anyone in your direct line of ancestry who you think might ever have been a U.S. citizen, you should explore that possibility.
Generally, to be eligible for naturalization you must:
- Be age 18 or older;
- Be a permanent resident for a certain amount of time (usually 5 years but less for some individuals);
- Be a person of good moral character;
- Have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government;
- Have a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States; and
- Be able to read, write, and speak basic English. There are exceptions to this rule for someone who:
- Is 55 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 15 years; or
- Is 50 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 20 years; or
- Has a permanent physical or mental impairment that makes the individual unable to fulfill these requirements.
You may be able to apply for naturalization if you are at least 18 years of age and have been a permanent resident of the United States:
- For at least 5 years; or
- For at least 3 years during which time you have been, and continue to be, married to and living in a marriage relationship with your U.S. citizen spouse; or
- For at least 3 years under VAWA, or
- While currently serving honorably in the U.S. military, with at least 1 year of service, and you apply for citizenship while in the military, or within 6 months of discharge.
Certain spouses of U.S. citizens and those who served in the U.S. military during a past war or are serving currently in combat may be able to file for naturalization sooner than noted above.
Contact our office now if you need to apply for naturalization.