“Do you want to become a U.S. citizen?”, A blog post by Dodi Gomez PALOMA, Law Clerk at Law Office of Okan Sengun
- June 28, 2014
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The process that a legal permanent resident (LPR) undergoes in order to become a citizen of the United States is called naturalization.
In order to become a naturalized citizen, you, or your LPR friends, have to meet several requirements:
(1) You, as the LPR, must be at least 18 years old and show a legal admission to the U.S.
(2) Moreover, you must have maintained the LPR status for a specific amount of time; the statutory period is typically five years. So, when deciding if you can become a citizen, the five years before your application will be evaluated to determine your status, moral character and continuous stay. If you are becoming a citizen by marrying a U.S. citizen, congratulations! For you, the statutory period is of three years instead of five.
(3) To apply for citizenship of a determined state of the United States, you must have lived within that state for at least three months before sending your application.
(4) In addition, the LPR applicant must be able to demonstrate a continuous stay on United States soil; basically, showing that he or she has not left the country for an extensive period of time.
The rule is that applicants may not leave the United States for a period longer than six months. Then it becomes trickier: applicants whose statutory period is five years have to be physically present in the U.S. for thirty months. On the other hand, for applicants who have married a U.S. citizen (and thus have a shorter statutory period), the physical presence requirement is eighteen months.
(5) One of the most important requirements to apply for U.S. citizenship is to prove that you possess a Good Moral Character (GMC), which measures up to standards of average citizens of the community in which the applicant resides. So, you have to show to be a good person and that you would be a valuable asset to the United States as a community. You must continue showing your GMC during the statutory period and up to the time of reciting the Oath of Allegiance. To assess whether you have GMC, the officer will base his decision on your record, the information provided in the naturalization application, and the testimony resulting from your interview.
There are criminal offenses that preclude finding GMC, and these offenses require a conviction. In immigration law, a conviction implies a formal judgment of guilt. Nonetheless, an applicant who has satisfactory completed probation is not precluded from establishing GMC.
However, there are permanent bars to applying for naturalization. Permanent bars are constituted by severe criminal offenses such as murder, aggravated felonies, and other despicable crimes (e.g. torture, genocide, persecution, etc.)
Other requirements to become a naturalized U.S. citizen are demonstrating attachment for the principles of the U.S. Constitution, showing a basic knowledge of American history and government (usually established through a civics exam), and passing the required English test to show proficiency in English. For the civics and English exams there are some exceptions. People who are above fifty years old or above fifty-five, and at the time of filing have lived as a LPR in the U.S. for respectively twenty or fifteen years (at least) are exempt from the English test and may take the civics exam in their language of choice with an interpreter. Similarly, people who are above sixty-five and resided in the U.S. as an LPR for at least twenty years, do not have to take the English proficiency exam and take a different civics exam designated specifically for them, which may be in their language of choice.
The very last step in the naturalization process is to take the Oath of Allegiance. The Oath is the moment in this process in which the legal permanent resident renounces affiliation to any foreign state of which he or she was formerly a citizen. Moreover, during this ceremony, you swear loyalty towards the United States Constitution, its principles, and to comply with all requirements of its law.
This is how the Oath goes:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Written by Dodi Gomez PALOMA
June 12, 2014