A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) can apply to become a U.S. citizen though a process called naturalization. While many permanent residents must maintain their resident status for at least five years before applying for citizenship, persons who are married to U.S. citizens, including certain applicants who obtained their residence following approval of a self-petition under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), may file for citizenship after only three years as a U.S. resident. Maintaining resident status for three or five years is merely one requirement for naturalization. Applicants must also meet physical presence and continuous residence requirements, demonstrate their good character during the statutory period, be able to read, write, and speak basic English as well has demonstrate knowledge of U.S. civics. While these requirements may seem straightforward at first, they can become quite complicated should an issue arise. Because denial of an application for naturalization will result in the resident being referred to an Immigration Judge for removal proceedings, applicants should proceed carefully and with the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney. Applicants with criminal convictions should always confer with an immigration attorney to determine if it is advisable to apply for U.S. Citizenship.
An immigration attorney should be able to review your case to determine if it is advisable to file. Failure to pay child support, failure to file taxes or owing back taxes, extensive foreign travel and lengthy trips abroad, and criminal convictions are some of the most common issues applicants for naturalization may have. Having one of these issues anywhere in your history doesn’t necessarily mean you are ineligible to file for naturalization, but it does indicate you should have your case thoroughly reviewed before you file. Even LPRs can be found to be deportable from the U.S. and placed in removal proceedings when they file an application for citizenship. Many attorneys will not review an application you have pre-prepared and would rather work with you from the beginning to ensure that all potential issues have been addressed and thoroughly explored before filing. The Law Office of Karen Winston regularly represents applicants for naturalization at the USCIS office in Jacksonville. If you have a question regarding applying for U.S. citizenship or any other immigration matter, call our office at (904) 723-4570 or send us a comment.