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Latino Daily News

Saturday August 21, 2010

How to Become a U.S. Citizen

Naturalization is the process a foreign citizen goes through to become a citizen of the United States. Certain requirements must be fulfilled in order to gain U.S. citizenship.

It is important to note that immigration is a highly individualized process, and approvals are granted on a case-by-case basis. You may have a special case that does not follow the general naturalization requirements, but may be considered with special exceptions or waivers. A good immigration attorney can be a great resource if you have a special case. Also, highly skilled workers, investors and entrepreneurs can immigrate under special circumstances. Foreign residents also can come here legally if they have refugee or asylum status or in some cases are sponsored by humanitarian programs.

• Before becoming a citizen, applicants must be legal immigrants. Individuals in the country illegally are not eligible for permanent resident or citizenship status. According to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services - illegal immigrants wishing to gain citizenship must first go back to their home country and apply for legal permanent residency and file for naturalization.

Age You must be 18 years of age. Applicants less than 18 years old must follow procedures outlined for Naturalized Citizen’s children.

First apply for permanent resident status-

• Individuals can attain permanent resident status after living here continuously for five years, or by living here while being married to a U.S. citizen for three years or by having served in the U.S. Armed Forces for one year. You must be a permanent resident (obtained your green card) to be approved for citizenship.

• Individuals at least 18 years of age can become legal permanent residents by applying for a green card, which grants them authorization to permanently live and work in the U.S. After obtaining a green card on their way to citizenship, immigrants are then referred to as “lawful permanent residents.”


Prepare to file for Naturalization

• Physical Presence-You must have 5 years as a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. prior to filing, with no single absence from the United States of more than 1 year. You must have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the previous five years. If you’ve been away for more than 6 months but less than a year, you’ll need to prove that you did not intend to abandon your U.S. residence during that period.

• File for naturalization

• After proving permanent residency and applying for naturalization, an immigrant must pass a naturalization examination and a security background check.

Good Moral Character
• You must show that you have been a person of good moral character. This includes your time within the U.S. as well as prior to coming here. However, if you’ve been granted permanent residence status, you can be reasonably certain that you’ve already proved good moral character for the period prior to coming to the U.S.
• You must disclose all relevant facts including your criminal history, even if the crime is not the type that would count against your good moral character.

Attachment to the Constitution
• You must show that you are “attached” or agree with and follow the principles of the U.S. Constitution.

English Language
• You must be able to show that you can proficiently read, write and speak the English language.

U.S. Government and History Knowledge
• You must pass the Naturalization exam, which tests your knowledge and understanding of the principles and government of the U.S.

Oath of Allegiance
• The final step in becoming a U.S. citizen is taking the Oath of Allegiance.


• For all the details, see U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services