Citizenship & Naturalization
From the very beginning, America has been a nation of immigrants. What makes the United States so unique and special is the diverse group of citizens that make up and contribute to society. Naturalization is the process by which foreign-born individuals become citizens. Becoming a naturalized citizen comes with many benefits; and also its share of responsibilities.
Requirements for Naturalization
Anyone who is born in the United States (or certain territories and possessions subject to U.S. jurisdiction) is automatically a citizen. In some cases, a person can be a U.S. citizen even if he or she was born in another country, such as if both parents were U.S. citizens at the time individual was born.
If you do not meet either of these requirements but wish to become a citizen, you must meet certain requirements of eligibility:
- Permanent resident status. Prior to becoming a citizen, one must have had a green card for a specified number of years, usually five. In some cases, the required period of time is shorter, such as if you are married to a U.S. citizen, are a victim of domestic violence (perpetrated by a citizen spouse), a refugee, political asylee, or a member of the U.S. military (or widowed spouse of one).
- You have physically lived in the United States for at least half of the years of your permanent residency requirement—usually two and a half years. Spending any extended period of time (six months or more) out of the United States could deny you citizenship.
- You have resided in the same state for three months prior to applying.
- You can speak, read, and write in English.
- You have good moral character (usually demonstrated by being up to date on any required child support payments and not committing crimes).
- You are willing to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
- You can pass a test about U.S. history and government.
- You are 18 years or older.
Why Become a Citizen?
U.S. citizens enjoy many rights that are not available to permanent resident aliens. Citizens can vote, hold public office, hold a U.S. passport, receive government protection when travelling abroad, and can extend citizenship to your children. It can also help relatives overseas to obtain their visas.
There are certain responsibilities one must assume through naturalization. These include swearing allegiance to the United States and promising to serve in its military when required (for example if there is a military draft).
Many people desire to have dual citizenship. Under United States law, if you are a U.S. citizen and apply for citizenship elsewhere, you may have your citizen status revoked.
Applying for Naturalization
Applying for naturalization is a complex process. There are a number of forms that need to be properly filled out and submitted, including the Form N-400. One should also register and study for the naturalization test, which is a brief oral test on U.S. history and government. Some people may be exempt from testing, including those who are over the age of 55 who have resided in the United States for at least 15 years.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at the Law Offices of Tahir Mella, P.C. Handle a Broad Range of Immigration Issues
At the Law Offices of Tahir Mella, P.C., we counsel clients seeking citizenship and guide them through the naturalization process. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call one of our experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers today at 215-496-0690 or contact us online. We pride ourselves on our responsiveness to clients. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia, we represent clients in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and throughout the region.