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How To Become A Citizen Of The United States: 6 Things To Know

US Citizenship

The United States is a country that many dreams of reaching so they can start a new, hopefully, fruitful life there. But in chasing after that dream, one has to make sure that they meet the requirements for studying or working in the country. For those who want to stay for good by becoming a legal citizen, there are some matters they must understand first to prevent running in with the law and facing possible deportation.

1. It Can Be Through Birth Or Naturalization 

There are two ways for you to become a U.S. citizen: either you have to be born in any of the 50 U.S. states, or you can become a naturalized citizen.

Being born in the U.S. automatically makes someone a citizen of the country. But if that’s not the case for you and you’re at least 18 years of age, you can apply for naturalization. If your child is a minor and you or your spouse is an American citizen, you can apply for your child’s citizenship using Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, or Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate.

2. You Have To Be A Resident First

Regardless of your age, you must first be residing in the United States before applying for naturalization. This means you must already have a green card, which proves you’ve already attained permanent residency status. To get permanent residency, you can:

  • Study in the U.S. and eventually land a permanent job
  • Claim asylum
  • Be directly employed by a company in the country
  • Opt for investment immigration
  • Be sponsored by family

Individuals staying in the United States as illegal aliens still have a chance to become U.S. citizens. They can enlist the help of public lawyers like those from Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, which is the largest legal and civil rights organization for Asian Americans. Such groups offer free citizenship services you can take advantage of.

Immigration lawyers can help explain the possibilities you face as an illegal alien, such as deportation and reentry, depending on your case. A specialist may be required if you need a waiver of inadmissibility to retract your unlawful presence in the country. That also applies if you’ve committed fraud or crimes during your stay. The possibility of deportation and bars to reentry is high if you’re an illegal alien.

3. Application For A Visa Is Required

If you’re a foreigner wanting to stay in the United States, you must be granted a visa by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under the Department of Homeland Security. A visa is a requirement to stay in the country for a certain amount of time.

There are two kinds of visas. An immigrant visa is for people who wish to move to the United States permanently. Take note that this isn’t the same as a green card. Immigrant visa applicants must be sponsored by either a prospective employer or a relative who is a U.S. citizen.

Meanwhile, a nonimmigrant visa is only for those who wish to travel to the country. If you’d like to visit the United States for a vacation, no matter how short it may be, you can only do so once you have your U.S. visa.

4. Working In The U.S. May Call For A Petition

Many foreigners coming to the United States are primarily for employment. In that situation, the person’s employer filed for a petition with the USCIS specifically for them. There’s a high chance you can live and work in the United States if you have the type of job, work experience, skills, and education that the country requires.

However, the petition must be granted by the USCIS before you can apply for a visa or admission at the port of entry (POE). It would help if you also talked to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer so you can be allowed to enter the country.

5. You Need To File Form N-400 

The next step for people applying for U.S. citizenship under naturalization and having already established their eligibility is to file Form N-400 with the USCIS to begin the process.

The filing for naturalization costs USD$640 by 2020, and you also need to pay a fee of USD$85 for the biometrics or fingerprinting process. USCIS was reported to have proposed to raise the payment, so you’ll need to check online for any updates on that matter.

All your necessary documents must be complete. Get a copy of your green card and attach that to your application. If you have any documents stating the exemption of a copy of a green card or something similar, you must also include them. Once your application has been accepted, you only need to wait for a scheduled biometrics appointment date that’ll be sent by mail. 

6. Continuous Presence Is A Must

If you’re a green card holder, you must stay in the United States at least five years. If you’re married to an American citizen, you only need a minimum of three years. Continuous presence means that your stay in the U.S. hasn’t been cut short by taking a trip outside of the country for more than six months or more. That also includes the time it takes for the USCIS to process your citizenship.

So what would happen if you decided to leave the country for more than six months while you’re a green card holder? The USCIS will take that as an abandonment of your permanent residence. They’ll no longer continue processing your U.S. citizenship application.

But there’s still a chance for the USCIS to reconsider. That’ll depend on how long you’ve stayed in the country, the valid reason why you couldn’t go back sooner before running out of time, and the decision made by the USCIS officer handling your application.

In Conclusion 

Becoming a U.S. citizen means entails certain steps you must follow depending on your status. There are varying requirements if you’re a foreigner currently working in the U.S., either of your parents is a U.S. citizen, or you’re illegally staying in the country. The most important thing for you to do is to adhere to all the existing rules and guidelines if you want your application to succeed.

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