Naturalization


Citizenship Through Naturalization

Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
In most cases, an applicant for naturalization must be a permanent resident (green card holder) before filing.  Except for certain U.S. military members and their dependents, naturalization can only be granted in the United States.
You May Qualify for Naturalization if:


    •    You have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements. See “General Path to Naturalization” below.
    •    You have been a permanent resident for 3 years or less and meet all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen. See “Spouses of U.S. Citizens” below.
    •    You have qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces and meet all other eligibility requirements.
    •    Your child may qualify for naturalization if you are a U.S. citizen, the child was born outside the U.S., the child is currently residing outside the U.S., and all other eligibility requirements are met.
    •    You may also qualify through other paths to naturalization. See “A Guide to Naturalization” below. Chapter 4 of the guide discusses who is eligible for Naturalization.
    •    You may already be a U.S. citizen and not need to apply for naturalization if your biological or adoptive parent(s) became a U.S. citizen before you reached the age of 18.



General path to citizenship

 


There are various naturalization provisions that allow permanent residents (green card holders) to become U.S. citizens.  The most common of these provisions is section 316(a) of the INA which allows a person who has been a permanent resident for at least 5 years to apply for naturalization
Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for naturalization under section 316(a) of the INA, an applicant must:
    •    Be 18 or older
    •    Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 5 years  immediately preceding the date of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
    •    Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant's place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
    •    Have continuous residence in the United States as a permanent resident for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of the filing the application
    •    Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
    •    Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
    •    Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
    •    Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during  all relevant periods under the law.


 
Naturalization for Spouses of U.S. Citizens


In general, you may qualify for naturalization under Section 319(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) if you have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years, have been living in marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse during such time, and meet all other eligibility requirements under this section.
In certain cases, spouses of U.S. citizens employed abroad may qualify for naturalization regardless of their time as permanent residents. These spouses may qualify under Section 319(b) of the INA.
For information relating to spouses of military members, see the “Information for Members of the Military and Their Families” link to the right. For information about becoming a permanent resident or petitioning for family members, see the “Green Card” or “Family” links to the right.


General Eligibility Requirements


To be eligible for naturalization pursuant to section 319(a) of the INA, an applicant must:
    •    Be 18 or older
    •    Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
    •    Have been living in marital union with the U.S. citizen spouse, who has been a U.S. citizen during all of such period, during the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application and up until examination on the application
    •    Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant's place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of  filing the application
    •    Have continuous residence in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
    •    Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization until the time of naturalization
    •    Be physically present in the United States for at least 18 months out of the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
    •    Be able read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics)
    •    Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during  all relevant periods under the law.


A Guide to Naturalization -  http://www.uscis.gov/files/article/chapter4.pdf

 

Immigration Court Proceedings


The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1996 eliminated the distinction between deportation and exclusion proceedings, and since then, aliens subject to removal from the United States are all placed in removal proceedings during which an Immigration Judge will determine whether an alien is inadmissible, deportable, or eligible for relief from removal.
There are two classes of persons subject to removal proceedings: (1) aliens who were not admitted and, therefore, are inadmissible under Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act; and (2) aliens, who were admitted, but are now deportable under Section 237 of the Act.  Admitted means the lawful entry of the alien into the United States after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer.
Removal proceedings begin with the issuance of a Notice to Appear which is served upon the alien.  The Notice to Appear will state the charges against the alien and the reasons DHS/ICE believes the alien to be deportable. The Notice to Appear will also explain to the alien the consequences of his or her failure to appear at all scheduled hearings, including the court's right to hold a hearing and issue an Order of Removal in the alien's absence, as well as the alien's right to be represented by an attorney of his or her choice at no expense to the government.  
If an alien fails to appear at a scheduled hearing (except under exceptional circumstances, such as a serious illness to the alien or death of an immediate family member), not only can an alien be ordered deported in absentia, but he or she can also become ineligible for further relief later, such as voluntary departure, adjustment of status, and cancellation of removal.
Forms of Relief from Removal     
Cancelation of Removal for non-residents, Cancelation of  Removal for residents, Adjustment of Status through a family based petition or through an employment based petition, Asylum, Withholding of Removal, and Voluntary Departure are forms of relief that may be available to an alien in removal proceedings.
Each form of relief has specific eligibility requirements, and the alien must show at Immigration Court that he qualifies for such relief in order to be granted with the benefit sought.

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