Immigration and U.S. Citizenship
There are two ways to achieve United States citizenship—being born within the territory of the United States or through the naturalization process.
Criteria for U.S. Naturalization
United States naturalization laws are administered by USCIS. The agency also investigates applicants to determine their citizenship eligibility.
USCIS permits you to apply for naturalization if you meet certain other eligibility requirements and you fall within these classes of people:
- Permanent residents of the U.S. for the give years immediately preceding the application
- Permanent residents in the U.S. for three or more years and married to a U.S. citizen
- Qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces
- Children of U.S. citizens who live outside the United States.
Additional naturalization eligibility criteria are that you:
- Are 18 years old or older
- Have good moral character
- Possess basic knowledge of U.S. government (exceptions made for those with mental or physical impairments that prevent this)
- Have maintained a continuous presence and residence in the U.S.
- Can read and write English (unless mentally or physically impaired), or 55 years old with 15 years of permanent residence, or 50 years old with 20 years of permanent residence.
Note: you must meet all the above criteria for naturalization.
The Naturalization Application Process
The USCIS investigative process includes fingerprinting and criminal background checks. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) runs a “name check” on all applicants against its Universal Index; this Index contains its administrative, applicant, and criminal files.
- USCIS will review your immigration record and conduct an interview with you.
- USCIS officers are authorized by law to administer the Oath of Allegiance, subpoena witnesses, and request evidence on any eligibility criteria. However, the burden of proof for naturalization eligibility lies with you.
- USCIS officers may ask about anything related to your application. These matters include your marriage, green card, absences from the U.S. after receiving a green card, locations where you’ve lived or worked, affiliations, your belief in the principles of the U.S. Constitution; knowledge of English, United States history and government; your moral character, willingness to pledge allegiance to the United States, and any criminal activity in your record.
From the date of your initial naturalization interview until USCIS makes a decision is 120 days (four months).. If the process goes longer than 120 days, you are entitled to ask a district court to review your application. There will be additional internal procedures at USCIS once your naturalization application is approved. Then you will be asked to appear at a ceremony to pledge allegiance to the United States. There is a procedure to follow if your application is denied And you or an authorized representative can request a hearing before a USCIS officer within 30 days of receiving the denial.
Given the complexity of immigration laws and application processes, we recommend that people residing in Virginia contact The Alvarez Law Firm for legal advice and guidance about immigration policy, work or family visas, or naturalization matters.