Starting your journey to becoming a US citizen can seem daunting, especially since English is a second language for millions of naturalized foreign-born US citizens. Even if you are a fluent English speaker, the naturalization process is a long and complicated process, taking over 15 months on average per applicant.
Any little mistake that happens can kick that timeline back even further, and waste your money in the process. Because of this, many green card holders choose to never naturalize, out of fear of losing their green cards in the process.
While many people are happy remaining green card holders, there are more people that want to bring their immigration journey to a close by gaining their United States citizenship.
There are benefits of citizenship, such as the right to vote in any and all federal elections, or run for federal office, the ability to sponsor family members in their own journeys for citizenship, gaining a US passport for traveling, and being able to work for the federal government. Whatever your reason for your citizenship goals, completing your path to citizenship through naturalization can be extremely satisfying.
In the United States, an experienced New York City naturalization lawyer, such as Jason A. Dennis, can answer any questions you have regarding green cards, your application for naturalization, your eligibility for citizenship, and any possible criminal record. Through a confidential consultation, Jason A. Dennis can help start you on the end of your citizenship journey.
How do You Qualify For Naturalization?
Naturalization applications are expensive, over $700 per application, and non-refundable, and you want to make sure that you are qualified to apply for your citizenship before you spend any money on a citizenship application. If your application is rejected for any reason you will lose all of the money you have put into the process and have to start over. There are various guidelines for your eligibility. You must:
- Be 18 or older
- Have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 5 years
- Have been in the continental United States for at least 30 months of the 5 years of residency
- Be a person of good moral character
- Be able to pass an English test, a US history test, and a civics test
- Take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States
Not everyone is qualified to apply from the day they decide to start the process, and your starting line might be your journey towards qualification, while you also might qualify immediately and be able to apply as soon as you would like. No matter the case, an experienced New York immigration attorney can help you build the best plan to get your immigration status to a naturalized citizen.
On top of these requirements, there is also a limit to how many naturalizations are processed each year. The immigration court system is only so big, and processing times can rise by months in times of heightened need for naturalization.
What if I'm Not Eligible for Naturalization?
While many of the rules are set in stone, the timeline can be slightly different depending on certain circumstances. This is why hiring a good naturalization attorney is paramount. There are several loopholes to the "5 years" residence period requirement, so if the timeline is making you ineligible, it's possible this isn't the end of the road.
If you choose to join the United States military, you only have to wait 1 year after becoming military personnel to apply for your citizenship. If you are married to a citizen you can also shed off a couple of years, and you will only have to wait 3 years before applying for your citizenship.
Persons with a criminal history are unable to apply, but there may be a chance that your criminal record can be sealed or wiped clean. The right legal counsel may be able to help you find a way to clear any charges off your record and open up your eligibility. If you're unable to afford the cost of the naturalization appointment, and the biometrics appointment, there are fee waivers you may be able to apply for to cover the costs for you.
DACA is another option if you were brought to the United States as a small child. You have to be 18 to meet the citizenship qualifications for naturalization, but through DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) you can place a claim to citizenship in the United States based on the fact that you have lived in the United States a majority of your life, and that you were brought to the United States as a small child. For those that qualify, this can mean automatic citizenship with no fees.
There are so many requirements for naturalization that citizenship applicants have to follow, but these filing requirements shouldn't scare you away.
Can You go Through the Naturalization Process Alone?
If you are a single person, filing and paying for one simple application for citizenship, you speak English fluently, and you have a clean record, it's likely you could apply for and gain your United States citizenship all on your own. But for a majority of people, their cases aren't cut and dry. Whether it be a past criminal arrest or criminal conviction, they haven't been in the country long enough, a failed English or history test, or even just administrative errors that kick back applications automatically, tens of thousands of naturalization applications are denied each year in the United States.
Because of this, along with ever-changing immigration laws, hiring an attorney can save you thousands of dollars and months of time. The legal team at the Law Office of Jason A. Dennis is here to help you. Made up of experienced NYC immigration attorneys, the Law Office of Jason A. Dennis can make the process of naturalization go as smoothly as possible for you and your family. Between setting up the best legal strategy possible for your case, helping you meet the eligibility requirements such as your English fluency and your knowledge of American history. Applicants for citizenship overcome so much before they are ever able to reach the point of truly completing their immigration journey.