When you live in Orlando, cultural diversity is a way of life. We truly experience life on an international scale on a daily basis. No matter where you live in the region, it is not uncommon to come across someone who migrated to our area from another country.
Many of these people have been living in the United States for years and would like to become citizens. Here are some tips for those currently holding a green card or are legal permanent residents.
Naturalization, or the process of becoming an American citizen is not a process to be taken lightly. There are steps that must be followed and certain residency that must be met in order to file an application to become a US Citizen.
First among the requirements is the residency requirements. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), before applying for naturalization, a person must be a legal resident of the United States for a minimum of five years, unless the person is married to a United States citizen. In the case of someone married to a current citizen, the residency requirement is reduced to three years.
GOOD MORAL CHARACTER
Like with most things in life, there is not only a list of things you should do, there is a list of things you should not do before applying. The USCIS expects people who apply to become US citizens to be of good moral character. This means you should not be known as a drunk, a prostitute or lie to get immigration or naturalization benefits. You must respect and obey the law. When you fill out your application, you must report all crimes that have been committed on your application. Failure to do so may result in the application being denied.
You can never become a citizen if you have been convicted of murder, rape, sexual abuse of a child, violent assault, trafficking in drugs, fire arms or people, or if you have been convicted of an aggregated felony which had a prison term of 1 year or more. If you have ever been involved in any criminal matter in the United States we strongly urge you to seek legal counsel before any attempt at obtaining citizenship.
PHYSICAL AND CONTINUOUS PRESENCE
Before applying, you will also be expected to meet physical presence requirements. Not only are you expected to hold a green card for three to five years, but you must also maintain a physical presence in this country. For those married to a United States citizen, it is expected that you will have been physically in the country for 18 months before you apply. For those not married to a US citizen, the time period is 30 months. Now, this does not mean that you cannot take a brief trip outside the country, but if you are gone for 6 months or more, your physical presence criteria may be in jeopardy. There is also a continuous component that factors into your ability to apply. If you were to leave the country for a year or more, then the waiting period would begin again.
Once the residency requirements have been met, potential citizens can apply for naturalization. After the application has been received, they must pass a naturalization test. Once the process is complete, they will become permanent United States citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities that the title implies.
If you currently have a green card and are residing in the US, there are things you can do to speed the process along. The first thing that can be accomplished is for the potential citizen to learn English. The naturalization examination will have several parts, but one of the goals is to make sure the applicant can read, write and speak basic English.
Besides learning English, test takers are expected to have an understanding of the rich history of the United States and how the government functions. This is called civics. There are courses available on line, there may also be instructor led courses available in your community. Checking the Internet is a good way to start the search. You will be expected to know some of the history of the United States, how the government works and what rights and responsibilities you will be shouldering when you finally become a citizen.
All these criteria can be complicated and confusing even to those who are familiar with the process. Each case is different and has to be approached from a unique perspective to make sure that all the criteria are met.
If you, or someone you know, is having problems navigating the USCIS immigration system, contact Naturalization Attorney Joe Knape for a Free Consultation at 407-508-7774.