Orlando Naturalization Attorneys
Helping You Pave the Road to Citizenship
Becoming a citizen of the United States is a dream for many immigrants. A person to whom the naturalization is granted becomes a citizen of the U.S. and, as such, he/she acquires all privileges of U.S. citizens. However, achieving this dream requires careful planning, and many find their dreams unexpectedly shattered. If you wish to avoid pitfalls and have a smooth naturalization process, NeJame Law’s team has the experience and knowledge you need. Our Orlando naturalization attorneys have protected the rights of immigrants all over the country and can help you reach this milestone with as little inconvenience as possible.
Contact us online or by phone at (407) 500-0000 to schedule a consultation with one of our dedicated team members. Our firm is comprised of lawyers with decades of experience in a range of areas, including immigration law.
What is Naturalization?
Naturalization is the process by which our government confers citizenship upon someone once that person has made an application and fulfilled certain requirements. There are certain requirements you must meet first to be considered for naturalization—some of these includes being at least 18 years old, being of “good moral character,” has been a resident of the state in which you’re petitioning for at least three months, and if you have a green card, having Permanent Residence Status for at least three years.
US Naturalization Requirements
You are eligible to file for Naturalization if:
- You are at least 18 years old.
- If you received your green card through marriage to a U.S. Citizen, you have Permanent Residence Status (Green Card) for at least three years and are still married to and living with the same U.S. Citizen. Otherwise, the permanent residency requirement is five years.
- You have been a resident of the state in which the petition was filed for at least three months.
- You have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one-half of the five years (one half of the three years for spouse of a Citizen).
- You have reside continuously within the U.S. while the application for naturalization is being processed.
- You have not been absent for a period more than one year during the period residence (three or five years).
- You are a person of good moral character.
- The applicant must be interviewed by the INS.
- You speak, understand and write basic English. Some exceptions may apply.
- You are willing to serve in the U.S. armed forces or to perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law.
SPECIAL NOTE: There are some exceptions to the above rules. It may be possible to obtain waivers or exemptions from the above requirements. Also, often a person may be a U.S. Citizen derivatively based on the citizenship of his or her parent. In such case, the person would not need to apply for naturalization; rather for a certificate of citizenship. Consult an experienced immigration professional about the best route to your citizenship.
A person to whom the naturalization is granted becomes a citizen of the U.S. and, as such, he/she acquires all privileges of U.S. Citizens.
Common Naturalization Pitfalls
There are a variety of obstacles people face when attempting to obtain naturalization. If you’re dealing with any of the issues below or one we haven’t listed, don’t hesitate to reach us for legal support.
- Already a U.S. Citizen
Before filing your application for naturalization, make sure that . . . you are not already a U.S. citizen.
One may become a citizen by the mere operation of law, even before filing an application. A number of applications are denied each year on grounds that the applicant has already acquired derivative citizenship, either through the naturalization of a parent or via birth to a citizen abroad, without even knowing it. Whether by naturalization of a parent or birth to a citizen abroad, derivative citizenship has its own legal requirements which must be met. If at least one of your parents is a U.S. citizen, be sure to consult with an experienced immigration attorney before filing for naturalization
- Filing Too Early
Make sure you have accrued 5 years (or 3 years if married to and living with a U.S. citizen, or if another exception applies) of permanent residency. The regulations permit the applicant to file 3 months in advance, but if your application arrives at the USCIS even one day earlier than that, then your application will be denied. Therefore, better to err on the side of caution and not file too early.
- Good Moral Character Issues
Beware good moral character issues. Having good moral character is a basic requirement for naturalization and it can show up in different ways. The statute requires the applicant to demonstrate that he or she bears good moral character for the 5 (or 3-year period) of required residency (though the regulations permit the USCIS to look at conduct even preceding this period.) Be prepared to present any evidence of good moral character. For example, USCIS sees evading the IRS as bad moral character, which is why it’s beneficial to have copies of your filed tax returns. If you have missed any payments, then be sure to have a settlement letter from the IRS. Similarly, USCIS views evasion of child support obligations as bad moral character. Be prepared to present evidence of any child support payments or settlement, if applicable.
Another example of something that may show a lack of moral character is the willful failure to register for the Selective Service. Males between the age of 18 and 26 (not including those on temporary immigration status) are required to register for Selective Service. If you did not do so, be sure to consult with an experienced immigration attorney about the exceptions to these requirements. You may be able to establish that you did not willfully fail to register or that the failure to register was over 5 years ago, if you are now 31 years of age or above.
- Deportability Issues
One contradiction in immigration law is that one may be eligible for naturalization and yet be deportable. For example, one may not have had any arrests or criminal charges in the last 5 years and thus meet the good moral character criteria but may still be deportable for an arrest that occurred well over 5 years ago. Or one may be deportable for having falsely claimed to be a citizen or for voting illegally. If you have been arrested or criminally charged or made any type of false claim, you are encouraged to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. The attorney should analyze your case to see not only whether you are eligible for naturalization, but also what defenses you would have to any deportation proceedings, thereby enabling you to make an informed decision about whether to file for naturalization.
Having said that, the choice of not filing is much more difficult to make nowadays. For example, in states with stricter rules for driver licenses, such as Florida, one may not even be able to renew his or her license if the person does not have citizenship, an unexpired green card, or other proof of status. Thus, if you have strong defenses to any deportation charges, then it would be worth the risk to file your naturalization application.
- Abandonment of Residency
This issue especially, though not exclusively, affects the elderly in the community. Often, the elderly acquire permanent residency via their U.S. citizen sons’ and daughters’ petitions and attempt to live in the U.S. with them. However, the parents often find it difficult to detach from their roots abroad where they spent their entire lives, and thus find themselves remaining mostly abroad.
Unfortunately, however, the U.S. immigration law does not permit dual residency. When applying for naturalization, the applicant must demonstrate that he or she not only has been a U.S. resident for the last 5 years (or 3 years as noted above), but that he or she maintained continuous residency until the time of admission to citizenship.
According to the regulations for naturalization, if the applicant has been absent from the U.S. for 6 months, then there is a legal presumption of abandonment. The applicant may rebut this presumption by showing sufficient ties to the U.S. Moreover, if an applicant has been absent from the U.S. continuously for 1 year, then the applicant has abandoned his or her residency. In such case, the person must reestablish residency by waiting 4 years and 1 day (or 2 years and 1 day, if subject to the 3 year residency requirement) after returning to the U.S., before filing for naturalization.
Note: These rules of abandonment are for naturalization purposes. The general rules of abandonment for maintaining residency are separate and are not discussed here.
Contact our Citizenship Attorneys in Orlando
Immigration laws in the U.S. change continuously and applications are subject to a greater degree of scrutiny every day. Hiring the right immigration attorney to meet your needs is critical and can be crucial to the outcome of your case. Our experienced immigration team strives to provide you with the highest quality of legal services, and we’re proud of our professional reputation and of our high ethical standards.
Contact our law firm today at (407) 500-0000. Our Orlando naturalization lawyers are on standby and are ready to help you achieve your citizenship.