The application to file for citizenship, or naturalization, is done on form N-400. It requires all your biographical information: your evidence of work history, employment history, and residence in the United States, as well as your trips outside of the country over the last five years. The application is going to be used to demonstrate your eligibility for your citizenship. The N-400 form has a few requirements, making you eligible for citizenship.
If you’re married to a United States citizen, you must have had a Green Card for three years. If you are not married to a United States citizen, you need to have had a Green Card for five years. You must be over 18 years old, demonstrate both physical and continuous presence in the United States, and demonstrate that you are a person of good moral character.
Physical presence means that you have been physically present in the United States for the last two and a half years out of the last five years. You actually have to count the dates. To demonstrate continuous presence, you need to show that you have not been outside the United States for more than six months at a time consecutively.
- Trips lasting less than six months will not disrupt continuous presence.
- Trips lasting between six and twelve months may disrupt continuous presence.
- Trips lasting over twelve months will disrupt continuous presence and will force to you to start the process over.
There is a presumption that you have broken up your continuous presence if you’ve been outside the United States, consecutively, for more than six months. You must demonstrate that your absence from the United States was due to family illness or an emergency overseas, while maintaining a bank account, your tax return is here in the United States, and you have kept your job. It is difficult to get approved if you’ve stayed out of the United States for more than six months, so be sure to have everything documented for evidence. If you’ve been out of the United States consecutively for more than one year, you are not going to be eligible for US citizenship.
You also need to demonstrate good moral character. If you have avoided criminal activity, illegal immigration, acquiring a fraudulent Green Card, or any other dishonorable acts, you should have little to no problems demonstrating good moral character. However, if you do have some type of negative history, it may be complicated. Know how you acquired your Green Card and make sure it was legal. You do not want immigration to take away your green card when you apply for citizenship.
When your requirements are met, and you are ready to take your U.S citizenship test, you may want to know if you can take the test in your own language. There are exceptions to the English language requirement for naturalization. If you are 55 years old and have been a lawful permanent resident for 15 years, or if you are 50 years old and you have been a lawful permanent resident for 20 years, you can take the exam in your own language. There are also exceptions for permanent disabilities that would prevent you from speaking English. If you meet these requirements, you will have to bring your own interpreter if you wish to take it in your language.
If you pass your exam and become a United States Citizen, you may want to sponsor your family members who are still abroad or living in the United States. As a United States Citizen, you have the right to apply for your spouse, parent, children, and siblings. Form I-130 will establish the relationship between you and your relative. Form I-485 is the application for permanent residence or status adjustment.
Citizenship may be a complicated process. Speak with an immigration attorney to guide you through the potentially document-heavy procedure. An immigration attorney will not only be able to assist you through the multitude of forms, they can make sure you are protected as you become a U.S. citizen.