When a foreign national obtains permanent residency through a marriage to a U.S. citizen and she is still married to the same spouse, the foreign national can apply for U.S. citizenship after being a permanent resident for three (3) years (including the period she was a conditional permanent resident). In all other cases (other family-based immigration and employment-based immigration cases), the permanent resident must wait five (5) years before she/he will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
An important point here is that, during the time the foreign national’s application for citizenship process and until the final decision has been rendered, she must still be married to the same spouse and residing together as a married couple. To this end, she must provide documents of her continuous marriage to the same spouse when she applies for citizenship. Some of the same documents that were submitted for the petition to remove conditions on the permanent residency may be submitted again with her citizenship application.
Application for Naturalization, Form N-400, is fairly comprehensive covering the applicant’s residence, travel, affiliations, employment as well as criminal history. So many people mistakenly believe that the application for citizenship is something they can do on their own. In many instances, however, there are eligibility issues that must be dealt with before proceeding to file the application. As the saying goes, “the devil’s in the details.” The following is a general list of requirements:
- Actual physical residence: for a period of three months immediately prior to filing for U.S. citizenship, the applicant must have resided in the state in which the application is being filed.
- Physical presence within the U.S.: for a total of at least one half of the period of required continuous residence. For qualified spouses of U.S. citizens, the physical presence requirement would be one and a half years.
- Continuous residence in the U.S.: for a total of three years in the case of qualified spouses of U.S. citizens and five years for others. Continuous residence does not mean physical presence: it means maintenance of residence within the U.S. for the required period of time. Extended absences outside the U.S. may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence.
- The ability to read, write, and speak English: unless the applicant is physically unable due to disabilities (which must be proven), English proficiency is required.
- A basic understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history and government is required.
- Good moral character and affinity for the principles of the U.S. constitution: good moral character is demonstrated by the applicant’s affiliations, criminal history, and sometimes, tax history.
As the list suggests, applying for citizenship is more complicated than one might think. It is highly advised to consult with an experienced immigration attorney before applying for citizenship.
After application for citizenship is submitted, the applicant will receive a notice for biometrics to have her fingerprints taken. Thereafter, USCIS will schedule the N-400 interview where she must appear for the Civics and English examination. The N-400 examination booklet can be found at local libraries, USCIS website, and other online sources. Once the applicant passes the N-400 examination, she will be scheduled for the oath ceremony where she will receive the citizenship certificate. She can also apply for the U.S. passport at the oath ceremony or apply for it at a local postal office after she receives the citizenship certificate.
This is the end of the immigration journey in the U.S. As can be seen, each step requires precision in filling out all the correct forms, carefully preparing the supporting documents, and preparing for a successful interview. We have seen many cases that went wrong because they received the wrong help or they did not seek professional assistance. These cases have resulted in months or years of delay and sometimes, denials. This means losing not only time but money in terms of trying to correct the problems later, and the foreign spouse not being able to gain legal employment for an extended period of time. Seeking the help of an experienced immigration attorney is essential in ensuring that your case will be properly processed. Root Law Group has a combined legal experience of over 60 years exclusively handling immigration cases. Call for a free consultation with an experienced immigration attorney today! (323) 456-7600.