American Citizenship by Naturalization
The process in which a lawful permanent resident becomes a citizen of the United States is called Naturalization. An immigrant that has lived continuously in the U.S. for at least 5 years as a Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card holder) is eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship. Those that have gained permanent residency through marriage to a U.S. Citizen can apply after only 3 years.
Among the numerous rights that U.S. Citizenship confers, the following are the most important:
- Right to vote
- Right to hold public offices
- Right to petition family members for U.S. permanent residency
Moreover, while a Green Card holder cannot maintain his LPR status if he or she establishes residency in another country, a U.S. Citizen is free to live abroad for an indefinite period of time without restrictions.
Finally, a criminal conviction for a crime of moral turpitude exposes a lawful permanent resident to removal proceedings, while a naturalized citizen can’t be deported from the United States.
Requirements for U.S. Citizenship
A Green Card holder must satisfy certain requirements in order to apply for American Citizenship. Besides living continuously in the United States for the statutory period, a lawful permanent resident must prove:
- To be a person of good moral character
- To be fluent in the English language
- To have basic knowledge of the Civics and History of the United States
- To be willing to take the oath of allegiance to the U.S.
The application for American Citizenship is filed on Form N-400 with the USCIS. The process is relatively easy for many, although it is crucial to consult with an experienced U.S. Citizenship Attorney if you were ever arrested or convicted of a crime.
A criminal conviction, no matter how remote, can be an obstacle to becoming a U.S. Citizen. More importantly, even an old conviction that was not originally detected by the USCIS can trigger removal proceedings against a Green Card holder.
As a New York Immigration Attorney, I helped dozens Green Card holders become naturalized American Citizens. Please fill out an evaluation form if you would like for me to review your citizenship eligibility for free.
Dual Citizenship with the United States
Many Green Card holders wonder whether it is possible to hold dual citizenship. U.S. law does not formally recognize dual citizenship with other countries, but does not prohibit it either. Thus, the question is whether the laws of the other country allow dual citizenship with the United States.
Many countries do: one example is Italy. Italian law allows dual citizenship with the U.S.
Contact an Immigration Attorney in New York for more information on American Citizenship