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Naturalization in an election year, such as 2020, is always a very timely issue. Therefore, it is important to provide an overview of the general requirements of naturalization and some of the pitfalls to be aware of when you apply.
A few requirements for naturalization include:
- You have to be a permanent resident for at least five years.
- You have to be able to speak English and answer basic questions about American history and government.
- If you are married to a United States citizen, as long as you have been living with that citizen, you need only be a lawful permanent resident LPR (also known as a “green card” holder) for three years. Now, generally, if you were married less than two years at the time you got your green card, you get only a two-year green card and would need to apply for removal of conditions. That petition is likely going to be pending by the time you become eligible for naturalization. You absolutely can apply for naturalization while your removal of conditions application is pending.
- You have to have maintained continuous residence in the U.S. for five years, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen:
- If you are outside the United States for more than 6 months, you may need to provide evidence to show your absence was temporary and you continued to live in the United States.
- If you are outside for more than one year, generally your five-year period will have to start all over.
COVID-19: During the coronavirus pandemic, your inability to return to the United States because of a lack of flights could help you show your extended absence wasn’t because you abandoned your residence.
- You need to show good moral character over the last five years. How do you show this? Pay your taxes, state and federal. If you are under the age of 25, you must register for Selective Service.
- Criminal convictions. Some crimes, known as crimes involving moral turpitude, can make you ineligible for naturalization for five years. Some are known as aggravated felonies, and these make a person permanently ineligible for citizenship. It’s also important to know that regardless of when the criminal convictions were, they may also have an impact on your green card status. So, a naturalization application carelessly filed could result not just in a denial, but in deportation proceedings based on past criminal convictions. Therefore, if you have had any arrest history, it’s important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney.
- That directly goes also into another important point, which is that when one applies for citizenship, immigration will take a look at your entire history. That means what immigration applications you have previously submitted and how you got your green card. You cannot assume that although you were given a green card already, that your history prior to that date is no longer relevant. Whether it be arrests that were not properly disclosed or a complicated marital or employment history, these are all things that must be reviewed with a fine tooth comb.
If you believe you are eligible for naturalization, and have any questions about the process, please feel free to contact our office at Pollack, Pollack, Isaac, and DeCicco, LLP, where our experienced US immigration attorneys can assist you in your application and with your naturalization interview.
If you need legal assistance, we are here to help. Call our lawyers at 212-203-4795.
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