Got My Visa! Now…, Can I Become an American Citizen?

Got My Visa! Now…, Can I Become an American Citizen?

Getting your visa is a huge milestone – congrats! But you’re probably wondering, “What’s next? Can I become an American citizen?” And you’re not alone. Every year, hundreds of thousands of immigrants ask themselves the same question, contemplating whether to take their immigration journey to its ultimate conclusion: naturalization or, simply put, becoming an American citizen. Just last fiscal year, USCIS welcomed over 800,000 new citizens in ceremonies across the United States. You’ve taken the first step by securing your visa. Now, it’s time to look ahead and navigate the path to American citizenship.

So, where do you start? Though it might seem overwhelming, don’t worry – we’re here to explain the basic requisites to get through the big decision. Plus, we’ll show you how an immigration attorney can make the process smoother and less stressful. Think about it this way – there are only three steps: understand what’s involved in the American citizenship application, work with us all the way through, and enjoy the same rights and privileges as natural-born citizens, like voting and having a U.S. passport.

Maintain Your Residency Status Clean

Becoming an American citizen starts with maintaining your residency status impeccable. Naturalization is like building a house – you need strong and solid foundations, or everything else falls apart. Staying on top of your permanent resident status makes the process smoother. Before you notice, you’ll be moving forward without any setbacks. But let’s dive a little deeper on how you can do it…

  1. Stay in the US. Make the U.S. your primary home. Avoid long trips abroad. If you must travel, keep it under six months. You need to be here for at least 30 months out of the five years before you apply for citizenship. Staying here shows your commitment and makes your case stronger.
  2. File your taxes on time. Always file your taxes as a resident. This proves you’re financially active and responsible. It’s a small step that makes a big difference.
  3. Follow the law. Keep a clean legal record. Avoid any trouble with the law. Even minor offenses can impact your status. Being law-abiding strengthens your application.
  4. Renew your Green Card. Don’t forget to renew your green card before it expires. An expired card can cause problems. Keep it up-to-date to avoid unnecessary hassles.
  5. Work and contribute to your new community! Get involved in your community. Work, volunteer, or join local groups. Show you’re an active member of society! It’ll highlight your dedication.

Maintaining your residency status might seem like a lot to juggle, but it’s all about staying mindful and proactive. By keeping these points in check, you’re well on your way to reaching your goal of American citizenship.

Eligibility Criteria to Become a Citizen of the United States of America

Becoming a citizen of the United States is an exciting goal, but you need to meet certain eligibility criteria (…outside of also being a good resident).

General Personal Requirements

To start your journey towards American citizenship, you need to meet some general requirements. These basic criteria ensure that you’re ready and eligible for naturalization. Here’s a simple rundown of what you need:

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You need to have been a permanent resident for at least five years. If you’re married to a U.S. citizen, this requirement is reduced to three years.
  • You must have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the five years before applying. If married to a U.S. citizen, it’s 18 months out of three years.
  • Maintain continuous residence in the U.S. without long absences.
  • Demonstrate good moral character, which generally means obeying laws and paying taxes.
  • You need to pass tests in English and U.S. civics, unless you qualify for an exemption.
  • Show that you are willing to support and defend the U.S. Constitution.

There’ll be exams!

To become a U.S. citizen, you’ll need to pass some tests and evaluations. These include an English exam and a Civics test. These assessments are designed to ensure you have a basic understanding of the language and knowledge about the country. Don’t worry, though – with a bit of preparation, you can succeed.

The English exam tests your ability to read, write, and speak basic English. You’ll need to demonstrate that you can understand and use simple words and phrases. During the exam, they’ll probably ask you to read a sentence in English, write a sentence in English, and answer questions in English. It’s designed to check your basic language skills. (But hey, check your options correctly – you might not need to take it!)

The Civics exam covers U.S. history and government. You’ll be asked up to 10 questions from a list of 100, and you need to answer six correctly to pass. This test ensures you understand the fundamentals of American democracy and history, including the Constitution, key historical events, and the functions of the government. It’s your chance to show that you’re knowledgeable about the core principles that shape the United States.

Remember, there are resources to help you prepare. Study materials, classes, and practice tests are available to boost your confidence. With the right support, you can master these exams and take a significant step towards becoming an American citizen. Stay focused and positive, and you’ll be ready on test day!

Some Exceptions to the Criteria

While there are standard criteria for naturalization, exceptions exist to accommodate special circumstances. Not everyone’s situation is the same, and the U.S. government recognizes that some applicants face unique challenges. These exceptions ensure that everyone has a fair chance at citizenship. Understanding these exceptions can make your path to becoming a U.S. citizen smoother. Here are some key exceptions you should know about.

  1. Exception for long-standing residents. If you are over 50 years old and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years, or over 55 and a permanent resident for at least 15 years, you are exempt from the English language requirement but must still pass the civics test in your chosen language.
  2. Exception for the military. Active-duty service members or veterans can benefit from streamlined processes, and certain time spent abroad counts as time spent in the U.S.
  3. Exception for disabilities. If you have a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment that prevents you from meeting the English and civics requirements, you may qualify for an exception by filing a Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions (Form N-648).
  4. Renew your Green Card. Don’t forget to renew your green card before it expires. An expired card can cause problems. Keep it up-to-date to avoid unnecessary hassles.
  5. Exception for spouses of American citizens working abroad. If your spouse is a U.S. citizen working abroad for the U.S. government, a recognized American institution, or a qualifying international organization, you might be eligible for expedited naturalization.

Knowing these exceptions can open doors and provide opportunities for those who might otherwise struggle with the standard requirements. Stay informed and positive, and you’ll find the path that works best for you.

If It’s Still Too Much, Ask An Immigration Attorney

Ok, you might be able to apply for naturalization, but you’re still not so sure. “Who knows?” you may ask yourself, “I might be eligible to one of those fancy exceptions if I wait a little.” And we know it. We’ve work with clients who have played out their immigration journey like a chess match: they’ve waited and considered every possible scenario to consider which move is the most optimal. It’s also what we recommend.

If you’re still not ready to engage in the naturalization process, don’t sweet it – ask one of our attorneys! Our immigration attorneys can help you navigate the complexities and figure out the best strategy for your situation. They can assess your eligibility, explain any exceptions you might qualify for, and help you avoid common pitfalls.

So, don’t go at it alone! Having an expert on your side means you’ll have peace of mind knowing your application is in good hands. They can also provide valuable advice on timing and keep you updated on any changes in immigration laws that could affect your case. Reach out to our experienced immigration attorneys. With the right support, you’ll be on your path to American citizenship.

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