Permanent resident status is a complex process that enables an immigrant to reside and work on a permanent basis in the United States.
Benefits of Being a Lawful Permanent Resident
How to Become a U.S. Citizen Through Naturalization
What is naturalization? In essence, it is the process of being a citizen for an individual not born in the United States. The application for naturalization is Form N-400 and can be obtained from the USCIS website. However, there are specific requirements that must be met before the application can be processed.
A person is given a permanent resident card commonly known as a “green card.” There is a set number of years that a resident is required to be in continuous residency in the United States. Any stay outside the U.S. for more than 6 months can disrupt continuous residence. Permanent residents need to maintain this continuous residence as well as physical presence in the U.S. for five years. If you are married to a U.S. citizen there is a three year requirement.
Naturalization Requires Good Moral Character
The law has specific requirements regarding whether a person possesses good moral character. Specifically, your criminal record. There are offenses that you cannot be convicted of, meaning you can be barred from applying for naturalization. There are also offenses that can temporarily bar an individual from qualifying for citizenship. The following crimes are examples of those demonstrating a lack of good moral character: crimes against people with the intent to harm, violating controlled substance laws, illegal gambling, prostitution, and terrorist acts to name a few. Not telling the truth during the USCIS interview can also be grounds for denying your citizenship.
A requirement of understanding the English language must be demonstrated by the person seeking naturalization. The applicant must be able to read, write, and speak simply words and phrases from “ordinary usage in the English language.” There is also a requirement for the applicant to have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government. Applicants over the age of 50 have different exemptions for taking the English test. For example, if the applicant is over 50 years of age and has been a permanent resident for at least 20 years, they do not have to take the English test, but do have to take the civics test.
As an applicant for citizenship, you must show a willingness to support and defend the United States and the Constitution. There must be a declaration of “attachment” to the U.S. and the Constitution by taking an Oath of Allegiance. This oath makes the applicant promise the following: to renounce foreign allegiances, support the Constitution, and serve the United States.
Do Not Lose Your Permanent Resident Status
Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status in the U.S. is a privilege that can be revoked. It means that you can lose your LPR status even after receiving a green card. For example, you will lose your LPR status when you abandon your permanent residence in the U.S., or when you become deportable for committing a serious crime or violating U.S. immigration laws.
Many are of the belief that after getting a green card, they can travel freely or even relocate to their home countries. Though an absence from the U.S. does not automatically result in cancellation of LPR status, an extended absence can lead to the government questioning an immigrant’s intent to remain a permanent resident of the U.S.
Apart from how long you have been absent from the U.S., the USCIS will look to many other factor that reflect your intent such as:
It is important to note that no single factor mentioned above is controlling with regard to your intent to maintain permanent resident status. The government will analyze all other relevant factors to come to a decision.
Generally, if you leave the U.S. for one year or less, you can use your green card as a reentry document. However, if you are absent from the U.S. for more than one year, you might face difficulties reentering the U.S. The USCIS considers the absence of longer than one year as a possible abandonment of U.S. residency. If you will be out of the U.S. for more than one year, you may need to get reentry permits or special immigration visas.
Completing the application, having fingerprints taken, being interviewed by USCIS, taking the English and civics tests, and taking the oath are all necessary steps to becoming a U.S. citizen. Contacting an immigration attorney can be helpful in making sure all necessary steps are taken in applying for citizenship.
This website is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney/client relationship. Attorney Jonathan Mendoza is an active member of the State Bar of California and is licensed to practice law in this state.
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