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Naturalization and Citizenship

The United States citizenship law recognizes as citizens people of various backgrounds, including persons born on the United States territory and those who acquire citizenship through parentage claims.

While the Citizenship Statute qualifies broad groups of people for naturalization, the Statute does not guarantee that all applicants eligible for naturalization under its provisions will be actually granted citizenship: the grant of citizenship is discretionary and is decided on the merits of each case. The presentation of a particular case is critical to the success of the application and makes the difference between a long-awaited acquisition of citizenship and a devastating denial followed by deportation from the United States.

Although the successful naturalization of a foreign-born individual brings numerous advantages, such as the protection from deportation/removal from the United States, the eligibility for certain government jobs, the right to vote, the right to apply for immigration benefits on behalf of certain family members, and the ability to travel abroad without a visa, applying for naturalization may have negative consequences, such as attracting attention of immigration authorities which may result in the initiation of deportation proceedings, the stress of going through the process of naturalization, and the potential loss of another citizenship held by the individual. An applicant should be aware that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency conducts an expansive background investigation of each individual applying for citizenship and looks closely at the individual's immigration history.

Mention should be made that the Immigration and Nationality Act, the statute governing immigration law, was amended in 1996. These amendments severely restricted the eligibility of non-citizens with a criminal history to apply for naturalization, even if the offense took place prior to 1996 and was minor in nature. As a consequence, if an individual with a criminal history applies for naturalization, the USCIS may classify the petitioner as removable from the United States and commence (initiate) removal proceedings against the petitioner.

In the light of the above, a detailed analysis of the potential applicant's background is highly advisable before the individual decides to go through with the application for naturalization. Obtaining a copy of the file held on the individual by the USCIS may help to determine the best option available under the circumstances.

To be eligible for naturalization in the United States applicants must comply with the following requirements:
  1. have basic English skills;
  2. be able to pass a U.S. civics test;
  3. be a lawful permanent resident of the United States for five years, or three years for the spouse of a United States citizen;
  4. establish physical presence in the United States for at least half the requisite time;
  5. be at least 18 years old;
  6. maintain lawful permanent residence in a continuous manner;
  7. maintain residence in the State or USCIS District, in which the application for naturalization is filed, for at least three months;
  8. be a person of good moral character;
  9. swear allegiance to the United States by taking an oath of allegiance.
If you are not sure whether requirement (4) and/or requirement (6) of the eligibility criteria is satisfied by you, do not hesitate to call Attorney Michael Yalovenko for a consultation.

While most applications for naturalization are adjudicated by the USCIS, sometimes, it is necessary to bring the case for review before the United States District Court because of the delays or refusal by the USCIS to make a decision on the application.

Should you, or your family member, require help in preparing an application for United States citizenship, or have a question or concern regarding your immigration case, please do not hesitate to contact this office.

DISCLAIMER: No part of this article should be considered as legal advice, nor should anyone rely on any information contained in this article, as each person's circumstances are unique. This article is provided for information purposes only.

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