Many immigrants come to the United States and never decide to become citizens, instead preferring lawful permanent resident (LPR) status or any other nonimmigrant visa. However, many do decide to take the proverbial leap, but remain confused at times about what naturalization requires. Refreshing one’s memory can be helpful.
Requirements to File
Before one begins the process, it is a good idea to ensure that he or she is even eligible to do so. A person is generally eligible to naturalize if he or she is over the age of 18, has good moral character (no convictions for aggravated felonies), and has been a permanent resident for at least 5 years, or 3 if he or she is married to a U.S. citizen.
Most potential citizens must also be able to show a basic command of written and spoken English, and show that he or she has not been outside the United States for more than half of the last five years (60 months), among other characteristics.
There are exceptions or waivers available for certain requirements—for example, if someone is over age 50 or 55 and has lived in the country a certain amount of time, he or she does not have to demonstrate English proficiency—but if none is available, then he or she must either demonstrate the requirement or resign himself or herself to ineligibility.
If the person is ineligible, it does not mean that his or her current legal status has been affected unless he or she has been convicted of an aggravated felony or multiple crimes of moral turpitude.
Interview is Important
After submitting the N-400 Naturalization application and his or her biometrics, the next and arguably most critical step will arrive: the interview. In the interview, the applicant will be asked about anything relating to any documents he or she has submitted. More specifically, the applicant will be asked questions to verify his or her bona fides—his or her family situation, finances, and criminal record (or lack thereof).
It is important to remember that an applicant is under oath during this interview, meaning that any lies amount to perjury. While it is rare to actually be prosecuted for perjury due to lying in an immigration interview, what can happen is that it will be a mark against his or her ‘good moral character,’ which is a requirement to naturalize.
The application will likely not be granted at the interview, but rather the applicant will receive a written decision by mail. It will either be granted, denied, or it may be continued. A continuance means that more information will be needed in order to make a determination. Once the application is granted, however, it is common to be scheduled for a naturalization ceremony very soon after—in rare instances, on the same day as your interview. The applicant is not officially a citizen until he or she takes the Oath of Allegiance, so the sooner he or she is able to do so, the better.
Contact an Experienced Illinois Immigration Attorney
Becoming a U.S. citizen is an exciting and rewarding event, but getting to that point can be confusing. Consulting an attorney can make a big difference. The passionate Chicago naturalization lawyers at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are experienced in these matters and are happy to help answer your questions. Call our office today to set up a free consultation.
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