It may seem to some that applying for naturalization or U.S. citizenship is the easiest process because the process consists of filing a single form (though long), submitting a few simple documents, and appearing at a local USCIS office for interview and the examination or test. But the U.S. does not hand out its most esteemed immigration benefit easily. Many individuals who meet the timing eligibility for citizenship face several hurdles for proving good moral character and other issues.
U.S. citizenship is available to individuals who have been lawful permanent residents for at least five years or at least 3 years if residing with a U.S. citizen spouse. U.S. citizenship is an incredible benefit. For one, it solidifies a person’s many years spent residing in the U.S. and building a life in this country to finally become an “American” and stand with all our country represents and participate in the political process to ensure a strong country for future generations. But specific tangible benefits include: 1) voting in federal and state elections; 2) holding certain federal or state government positions; 3) holding a U.S. passport; 4) more flexibility with travel outside the U.S.; and 5) the ability to sponsor family members that residents cannot sponsor including parents, married children, and siblings and to pass on their U.S. citizenship automatically to their minor permanent resident children.
Most people worry about the “test” because it’s so natural to feel nervous about any exam even as simple as a driver’s test. The citizenship test isn’t that easy, but it can be passed if you take the time to study and prepare. The exam consists of two separate parts. The first tests your understanding of U.S. history and civics. You will be given a booklet by our office and USCIS of 100 questions for you to study. During the exam, you will be given up to 10 questions selected at random and you will need to answer at least 6 correctly. Most questions have straightforward one or two word answers. The second part tests your ability to read and write English. You will be given a simple sentence to read and then another sentence to write. You must pass all parts to pass the test. But there’s a third “hidden” component of the exam that some people don’t anticipate. You must also be able to understand the officer at the interview as he or she reviews your application with you in English. There are many yes or no style eligibility questions that are very complex such as: “have you ever participated in genocide or the mass killings of people?” or “have you ever made a material misrepresentation to gain an immigration benefit?” There are many questions such as these on the exam.
Our office will help you understand the basic exam process but will also evaluate whether:
- You are eligible to waive the English language requirement due to your age and length of residency, and/or your mental disability
- You have resided in the U.S. for sufficient periods of time to be eligible for citizenship and if not, whether any of the exceptions apply to your absences
- You have criminal convictions that may result in a finding that you lack good moral character or possibly result in your being placed into removal proceedings
- Any other factors preventing you from establishing good moral character apply such as failing to support your dependents; failing to file or pay overdue taxes; bigamous marriages; prior false statements or misrepresentations; and issues with the bona fides of a marriage through which you immigrated.
- Your children will be eligible to derive your citizenship