“An applicant must typically be a continious permanent resident for five years to be eligible for U.S. citizenship.”
CONSTITUTION Day is an American federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. It is a perfect opportunity for all U.S. citizens to reflect on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
Some of the many rights that U.S. citizens enjoy are the right to free speech, the right to freedom of religion, and the freedom of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” There are also many responsibilities that accompany U.S. citizenship, including the responsibility to support and defend the Constitution, serve on a jury when called, and defend the United States if the need arises.
To obtain all of the rights and responsibilities available to U.S. citizens, a noncitizen may apply to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. There are several requirements that a lawful permanent resident (green card) must meet for their application for naturalization to be approved. These requirements include the applicant being 18-year-old or older, meeting continuous physical presence requirements in the U.S., possess good moral character, demonstrate knowledge of the English language and U.S. history, etc. In addition, the applicant cannot currently be in immigration proceedings, cannot have an outstanding order of deportation, etc.
The issue of good moral character is frequently cited by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) when they deny applications for naturalization. Good moral character is required for the five-year period before the application is filed, and for three years if the application is being filed by a person living in “marital union” with their U.S. citizen spouse. In addition to these 3 and 5-year requirements, the USCIS may also consider acts prior to that period of time.
There are certain criminal acts that pose as permanent bars to good moral character. For example, anyone who has been convicted of murder at anytime cannot be found to have good moral character. The permanent bar also applies to someone convicted of an aggravated felony after November 29, 1990, even if a waiver had been granted. The only exception to a permanent bar of good moral character is if the applicant was fully pardoned and has demonstrated rehabilitation.
For crimes that are not considered permanent bars, such as providing false testimony made under oath to obtain an immigration benefit, they will then be weighed against positive factors. Acts that may still be overcome by submitting positive evidence of good moral character are failing to register for the Selective Service, owing back taxes to the government, etc. If good moral character issue is a potential issue, it is extremely important for the applicant to present evidence that they do indeed possess good moral character despite the possible grounds for denial.
An applicant must typically be a continuous permanent resident for five years to be eligible for U.S. citizenship. However, three years is acceptable if applying based on living in “marital union” with their U.S. citizen spouse. There is no requirement that the marriage be the basis for permanent resident status. Thus, an applicant who already had their green card at the time of marriage could apply for naturalization after three years of living in “marital union.” A person who obtained permanent resident status as a battered spouse or child may also apply for naturalization after only three years.
In addition to being a permanent resident for a certain number of years, there are also certain physical presence requirements that must be met. Generally speaking, an applicant must be physically present in the United States for at least half of the three or five years preceding the filing of their application. Unfortunately, it is not always as easy as simply counting the number of days that you have been present in the country. Rather, a person’s continuous residence may be disrupted by one or more lengthy absences from the U.S. A disruption in the continuity of residence will force an applicant to delay the filing of their application.
There are many things to consider when deciding whether to file an application for U.S. citizenship. In addition to all eligibility concerns, a person must also consider whether a denial of their application could potentially lead to deportation proceedings. However, despite the process being difficult and stressful, it is important to remember that the benefits and freedoms that come with U.S. citizenship are paramount. Consult an experienced immigration attorney today to ask if becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen is an option for you.
REEVES IMMIGRATION LAW GROUP is one of the oldest, largest and most experienced immigration fi rms in the United States with offi ces in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Manila and China.
For more Information please call (800) 795- 8009 or visit www.rreeves.com.
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The analysis and suggestions offered in this column do not create a lawyer-client relationship and are not a substitute for the personalized representation that is essential to every case.