Why become US Citizen
Vote and hold public office
Be employed in government jobs not available to permanent residents
Live outside the US without losing green card
Obtain a US passport and therefore travel with more convenience
US Citizens may petition for family members' legal residency
Despite being eligible for US Citizenship, a number of Green Card holders have not applied for US Citizenship for various reasons such as love for their motherland, intent of obtaining a better and cheaper healthcare system, and in some cases to retain property rights and save in taxes.
Who can become US Citizen
If you are a permanent resident, you can become a US citizen through the process called naturalization. To be naturalized, most applicants must meet the following requirements:
- You have resided in the US as a permanent resident continuously for five years. (You can qualify after only three years of permanent residence if you were married to and living with, a US citizen during those three years)
- You have been physically present in the United States for half of the five (or three) year period.
- You have resided in the district or state in which you are applying for citizenship for the last three months.
- You are a person of good moral character
- You have a basic knowledge of US government and history.
- You are able to read, write and speak simple English (with exceptions for some older, longtime permanent residents).
- You are at least 18 years of age and legally competent to take an oath of allegiance to the US
- You express your allegiance to the US government.
- You cannot read, write or speak basic English BUT
- I am over 50 years old and have lived in the US for at least 20 years since I became a permanent resident, or
- I am over 55 years old and have lived in the US for at least 15 years since I became a permanent resident, or
- I have a disability that prevents me from fulfilling this requirement and will be filing a “Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions” (Form N-648) completed and signed by a doctor with my application.
Good Moral Character and Criminal Activity
You cannot prove good moral character if, during the five (or three) year period prior to your naturalization, you have been convicted in the United States or abroad of one or more of the following:
A crime involving moral turpitude (such as theft, fraud forgery, assault, sex offenses, Prostitution, Given false testimony to obtain immigration benefits)
Two or more gambling offences
A narcotics offense
Two or more nonpolitical offenses for which you were sentenced to five years of more imprisonment
Any crime for which you were confined to prison for more than 180 days
Any aggravated felony
Parking tickets, disorderly conduct, and fines should not prevent a finding of good moral character.
If you were required to file a federal tax return, but failed to do so, your naturalization application will be denied.
Who should not apply for citizenship
Offenses that may make a Green Card holder removable:
Convicted of an Aggravated Felony
Made false claim to US citizenship
Lying, giving, false, misleading information to government official to obtain or retain immigration benefit
Conviction of Crime of Moral Turpitude within 5 years of “admission”
How to file US Citizenship
- Citizenship Process
- (6 to 12 Month process in an average)
Complete the N-400 application
- Gather all necessary documents.
- Complete the N-400 application.
- Take two passport photos.
- Submit Copies of Green Card and Passport with travel stamps within 5-year period
- Send application, documents and fee to Department of Homeland Security).
- The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will mail a notice verifying the receipt of the application.
- USCIS will mail a fingerprint notification letter indicating the dates and location to take the fingerprints.
- Utilizing fingerprints information, USCIS and the FBI, will conduct a background check.
- The Interview
- USCIS will send notice of an appointment for the interview.
- During the interview, a USCIS officer will conduct the interview in English to assess the applicant's knowledge of the English language and of U.S history and government.
- The USCIS officer will dictate a sentence in English for the applicant to write.
- The applicant needs to produce up to five years of tax returns, W-2s and other document establishing good moral character including police reports, court disposition records (if any).
- At the end of the interview, the USCIS officer will provide a decision regarding the application.
- Applicant need to bring any necessary documents as required by the USCIS.
- Oath Ceremony
- USCIS will mail an appointment for the oath ceremony.
- Upon taking the oath, the applicant will then become a united states citizen
- General Requirements to be Eligible to apply for Naturalization
- Have a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United states:
- Be a legal Permanent Resident for 5 years OR, if married to U.S citizen, be a Legal Permanent Resident for 3 Years
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Have the ability to read, write and speak basic English
- Have basic knowledge and understanding of U.S history and government.
- Have good moral character
- Willing to take Oath of Allegiance.
- Residence Requirements
- Residence must be continuous-certain absence may break continuity of residence
- Absence of less than or equal to 6 months
- Absence of greater than 6 months and less than 1 year.
- Absence of equal to or greater than 1 year
- Note: Applicant may be found to have Abandoned LPR status and put in removal proceedings, if it appears that s/he intended to abandon residence in the U.S. (The CBP has given liberal interpretation to this rule during the Covid-19 Pandemic and allowed people who stayed more than one year outside of the U.S. without a re-entry permit and could not return due to travel ban or their health conditions).
- Residence Requirements
- 3 Months residence in CIS Service District or state where file N-400
- Must reside in U.S from filing of application to Oath
- May apply 3 months before residence period (3 or 5 years) completed.
- Physical Presence Requirements
- Physically present in the U.S for at least 1/2 of previous 5 years or ½ of 3 years if married to a U.S citizen.
- Good Moral Character Requirement
- Must prove “good moral character” for same statutory period as the residence requirement (3 or 5 years)
- Statutory Bars
- Discretionary Bars
- Knowledge of U.S History and Civics
- At interview, need to answer 6/10 question
- 100 Questions
- Oath of Allegiance
- Include willingness to bear arms—can request modified oath.
- Exemptions from the English and Civics Proficiency Requirements
- An applicant may take the interview in his/her native language if she/he is:
- 55 years of age and has been a LPR for at least 15 year, OR
- 50 years of age and has been LPR for at least 20 years
- 65 years of age and at least 20 years as LPR receive shorter version of exam.
- Applicants w/mental disabilities can obtain waiver of interview.
- For waiver, applicant must submit form N-648 (medical exemption).
Appealing a USCIS denial of your citizenship application
If the USCIS denies your application, the USCIS examiner must inform your that you have 30 days to request a hearing before an immigration officer. If you are unsuccessful at that hearing, you may seek a review of the decision in federal court. The court will make an independent decision and can overturn the USCIS decision.
Citizenship and Good Moral Character
The standard for making a determination as to an applicant's good moral character is set forth in 8 C.F.R. § 316.10(a)(1), which states in pertinent part, “[a]n applicant for naturalization bears the burden of demonstrating that, during the statutorily prescribed period, he or she has been and continues to be a person of good moral character. This includes the period between the examination and the administration of the oath of allegiance.” (Emphasis added). The statutorily prescribed period is the five years prior to the date of filing the application. See, INA §316(a)(3).
In accordance with Section 101(f) of the Act, the Service shall evaluate claims of good moral character on a case-by-case basis taking into account the elements enumerated in this section and the standards of the average citizen in the community of residence. The Service is not limited to reviewing the applicant's conduct during the five years immediately preceding the filing of the application, but may take into consideration, as a basis for its determination, the applicant's conduct and acts at any time prior to that period, if the conduct of the applicant during the statutory period does not reflect that there has been reform of character from an earlier period or if the earlier conduct and acts appear relevant to a determination of the applicant's present moral character.
Pursuant to INA section 316 (a)(3) and 8 C.F.R. § 316.10(a)(1) and (2) and section 316 (a)(3) states that "during all the periods referred to in this subsection has been and still is a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States." This is further explained in 8 C.F.R. § 316.10(a)(1) and (2), which states,
(1) An applicant for naturalization bears the burden of demonstrating that, during the statutorily prescribed period, he or she has been and continues to be a person of good moral character. This includes the period between the examination and the administration of the oath of allegiance.
(2) In accordance with Section 101(f) of the Act, the Service shall evaluate claims of good moral character on a case-by-case basis taking into account the elements enumerated in this section and the standards of the average citizen in the community of residence. The Service is not limited to reviewing the applicant's conduct during the five years immediately preceding the filing of the application, but may take into consideration, as a basis for its determination, the applicant's conduct and acts at any time prior to that period, if the conduct of the applicant during the statutory period does not reflect that there has been reform of character from an earlier period or if the earlier conduct and acts appear relevant to a determination of the applicant's present moral character.
. The section states:
(1) An applicant shall be found to lack good moral character, if the applicant has been:
(i) Convicted of murder at any time; or (Revised 9/24/93; 58 FR 49913)
(ii) Convicted of an aggravated felony as defined in Section 101(a)(43) of the Act on or after November 29, 1990. (Revised 9/24/93; 58 FR 49913)
(2) An applicant shall be found to lack good moral character if during the statutory period the applicant:
(i) Committed one or more crimes involving moral turpitude, other than a purely political offense, for which the applicant was convicted, except as specified in Section 212(a)(2)(A)(ii)(II) of the Act;
(ii) Committed two or more offenses for which the applicant was convicted and the aggregate sentence actually imposed was five years or more, provided that, if the offense was committed outside the United States, it was not a purely political offense;
(iii) Violated any law of the United States, any State, or any foreign country relating to a controlled substance, provided that the violation was not a single offense for simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana;
(iv) Admits committing any criminal act covered by paragraphs (b)(2)(i), (ii), or (iii) of this section for which there was never a formal charge, indictment, arrest, or conviction, whether committed in the United States or any other country.
(v) Is or was confined to a penal institution for an aggregate of 180 days pursuant to a conviction or convictions (provided that such confinement was not outside the United States due to a conviction outside the United States for a purely political offense);
(vi) Has given false testimony to obtain any benefit from the Act, if the testimony was made under oath or affirmation and with an intent to obtain an immigration benefit; this prohibition applies regardless of whether the information provided in the false testimony was material, in the sense that if given truthfully it would have rendered ineligible for benefits either the applicant or the person on whose behalf the applicant sought the benefit;
(vii) Is or was involved in prostitution or commercialized vice as described in Section 212(a)(2)(D) of the Act;
(viii) Is or was involved in the smuggling of a person or persons into the United States as described in Section 212(a)(6)(E) of the Act;
(ix) Has practiced or is practicing polygamy;
(x) Committed two or more gambling offenses for which the applicant was convicted;
(xi) Earns his or her income principally from illegal gambling activities; or
(xii) Is or was a habitual drunkard.
(3) Unless the applicant establishes extenuating circumstances, the applicant shall be found to lack good moral character if, during the statutory period, the applicant:
(i) Willfully failed or refused to support dependents;
(ii) Had an extramarital affair which tended to destroy an existing marriage; or
(iii) Committed unlawful acts that adversely reflect upon the applicant's moral character, or was convicted or imprisoned for such acts, although the acts do not fall within the purview of Sec.316.10(b)(1) or (2).
Dual Nationality and US Citizenship
The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents may be both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth.
A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth. The law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.
Intent can be shown by the person's statements or conduct. The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. citizens may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist citizens abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person's allegiance.
However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there. Most U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship. Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose citizenship.
In spite of being eligible for US Citizenship, a number of Green Card holders have not applied for US Citizenship for various reasons such as due to the love of their motherland, intent of obtaining a better and cheaper healthcare system, and in some cases to retain property rights and save in taxes.