Applying for U.S. Citizenship – Not always as easy as it sounds.
In order to become a citizen, once must first be a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) Green Card holder.
The applicant must have been an LPR for five years prior to applying for citizenship (or three years if they are currently married to a US Citizen, and have been married to that same person for the entire three years). During this five or three-year period, they must have had Good Moral Character (GMC). Determining whether or not you have shown Good Moral Character can be a complicated analysis, and you should consult with an immigration attorney if you have any doubts. Certain crimes (such as murder or aggravated felonies) are a permanent bar to GMC, while other crimes only prevent a finding of GMC during the five or three-year period. USCIS will want you to submit any arrest or sentencing records along with your application, and they will also conduct a background check.
The applicant must also have resided continuously in the United States for this five or three-year period. Residence is a separate matter from physical presence in this regard. Residence refers to your principal, actual dwelling place. While you can take trips overseas without breaking your US residence, you should consult with an immigration attorney if you are going to be abroad for more than six months. It may be wise for you to file an Application to Preserve Residence. This is a separate document from a Reentry Permit. You should also obtain a Reentry Permit before any long trips abroad so that you do not inadvertently abandon your LPR status.
The applicant must also have been physically present in the United States for at least half of the five or three-year period. There are some exceptions to this rule.
Males who lived in the United States between the ages of 18 and 26 are required to register with the Selective Service System, whether they are documented or not. Failure to register can make it difficult to become a citizen unless you can prove that you did not knowingly or willfully fail to register.
If they applicant has ever falsely claimed to be a US Citizen, then they will be permanently barred from becoming a citizen. This includes checking the ‘US Citizen’ box on a Form I-9 when proving employment eligibility, or in some states when registering to vote. Voting in federal, state, or local elections is also a permanent bar to citizenship.
The applicant must then pass a short civics test and an English-language skill test. The applicant is asked ten questions from this list of 100, of which they must answer six correctly. Long-term LPRs over a certain age can be excused from the language test, and people with disabilities or mental impairments can be excused from both tests.
If any of the above-listed issues apply to you, it would be wise to consult with an Immigration Attorney before filing your application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
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