Things You Should Know About Acquiring Citizenship in the US

US citizenshipIf you were not born in the USA, there’s a naturalization procedure to become a citizen of the United States. You can gain citizenship in the United States before or after your birth, depending on your circumstances and immigration attorneys Tampa FL can help you navigate the process.

Eligibility for Citizenship in the US

  • You must be at least 18 years old when you apply
  • Be a lawful permanent resident for at least three or five years and live and work in the United States over an extended period
  • Get your basic English skills up to par
  • Exhibit high moral standards, awareness of the United States’ history and government, as well as a strong commitment to the principles of the United States Constitution
  • Be ready to swear allegiance to the United States

There are specific exceptions for naturalization through military service and others that your immigration lawyer near Tampa Bay can help you navigate.

Understanding USCIS Citizenship Terms

Good Morals

USCIS defines “good moral character” as a character that meets typical citizen norms and if you’re in doubt, an immigration lawyer Lakeland can assist you. Certain military applicants are also exempt.

Continuous Physical Presence

You must have resided in the US for five years as a permanent resident (or three years if married to a US citizen). “Continuously” means you didn’t take any excursions abroad lasting six months or more throughout the 3–5 years you need a green card.

If you depart the US for more than six months while holding a green card, USCIS will presume you have relinquished your permanent residency and decline your citizenship application.

Overcoming this assumption relies on a few things:

  • How long do you spend outside the US
  • What kept you from returning sooner
  • The officer reviewing your application’s discretion

Those seeking citizenship based on military duty would not need to fulfill the “constant presence” criteria.

Spending 6 months to a year abroad

Notably, you must show the USCIS officer reviewing your application that you do not intend to renounce your permanent residency in America while overseas. To do so, you must show that you have close ties to the US, such as:

  • You held your employment in America and didn’t look for work overseas
  • Have direct family members who stayed in the US
  • Enroll your kids in a US school if you have spent a year or more abroad

If you stay overseas for a year or more, USCIS will assume you have deserted your permanent residency. They will deny your US citizenship application and you’ll have to wait to reapply after your original wait time resets.

How to Avoid Citizenship Denial

To prevent being accused of abandoning your permanent residency, you must follow specific procedures before leaving the US.

Your options:

  • Seek a re-entry permit: Before leaving the US, you must apply for a “re-entry permit”
  • Apply for permanent residence preservation: You can retain your permanent residency if you have to stay overseas for a year or more for work with approval from the US government
  • Obtaining a returning resident visa: Not having applied for a re-entry permit upon leaving the United States, you must now apply for a “returning resident visa”
  • Also, contact immigration lawyers Lakeland FL for assistance

Physical presence

Your spouse must have resided in the United States for at least 2.5 years or 1.5 years (based on category) to apply for citizenship. In addition to the “physical presence” criterion, you must also meet the continuous residence requirements.

Residency is distinct from continuous and physical presence.

To meet the eligibility requirements, you must have lived in the state or USCIS region where you aspire to pursue citizenship for three months before applying.

“State” also includes the

  • District of Columbia.
  • Guam
  • Virgin Islands
  • The Northern Mariana Island

“USCIS district” is defined by your ZIP code. If you are a student who is financially dependent on your guardians, you can apply for citizenship from either location.

They will forward your naturalization case to the appropriate USCIS field office if you move after filing Form N-400.

How a Family Immigration Lawyer Can Help

If you are uncertain whether you qualify for citizenship, don’t worry. Our knowledgeable deportation defense lawyer at Espinoza Law Offices can help you prepare for your new status.

Contact us as soon as possible to begin assessing the intricate details on your path to citizenship.