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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about US Citizenship

By Lena Korial-Yonan, Esq.
Last Updated July 2, 2010

1. What are some general requirements to be eligible to apply for citizenship?
  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Must have good moral character (this refers to whether applicant has been arrested or convicted of any crimes)
  • Must read and understand English
  • Must have had the green card for at least 5 years or 3 years if applicant obtained green card through good faith marriage to US citizen spouse
  • If applying for US citizenship based on marriage to a US citizen and applicant has had green card for 3 years, the applicant must still be legally married to the US citizen and not considering divorce as an option in the near future (i.e. not separated)
  • Must reside at USCIS district where filing for at least 90 days in advance of filing
  • Travel Restrictions: Must be physically present in the US for at least HALF of the 5 years (i.e. 30 months or more) or HALF of the 3 years if applying based on marriage to a US citizen (i.e. 18 months or more).
  • Cannot have left the US for a continuous period of over 1 year within the past 5 years or within the past 3 years if had green card for less than 5 years. If applicant is absent from the US for over 6 months continuously, then applicant will need to explain to Immigration Officer reason for lengthy absence and provide proof to overcome presumption that residence has been abandoned. This can be done with the help of an experienced immigration lawyer.
2. How long does it take in Jacksonville, Fl jurisdiction for my N-400 to be completed and I can be sworn-in?

In the Jacksonville, Fl area, the processing time for an N-400 application with no criminal issues is 3-6 months. The average time is 3-4 months. For other areas, please call our office for more information as to exact processing times. We can file your N-400 application anywhere in the U.S. according to where you reside.

3. I have been arrested for a DUI within the past 5 years and I was convicted. Can I apply for citizenship or do I need to wait 5 years?

Generally, an applicant should wait for 5 years from any conviction (other than petty offenses) before applying for citizenship. This is a general law and there are many exceptions. In the USCIS jurisdiction in Jacksonville, Fl, our immigration law office was able to file form N-400 for an applicant who had a DUI conviction within the past 5 years. The Immigration Officer approved that N-400. However, please note that this case refers to one case in one USCIS district and may not necessarily apply to your case. If you file an N-400 with arrests and / or convictions in your file, you file at your own risk. Whenever there is any criminal history in an applicant’s background, we highly recommend that the applicant retain an experienced immigration lawyer to handle his or her N-400 case to ensure that the applicant will not place himself or herself at risk by filing for N-400.

Whenever an N-400 application is made, USCIS will be made aware of an applicant’s criminal past (among other things) through the fingerprints that will be taken. If the Immigration Officer believes that the applicant has committed a crime of moral turpitude, then that Immigration Officer can place the applicant in removal / deportation proceedings which may result in the applicant losing his or her green card status. As you can see, this is serious and should not be taken lightly by an applicant with a criminal history. Protect your rights and retain an experienced lawyer for a consultation and hopefully filing the N-400 on your behalf.

4. I am married to a US citizen husband who is stationed abroad. I just received my green card. Do I need to wait 3 years to apply for US citizenship?

If you can be listed on your husband’s orders and join him wherever he is stationed abroad, you may not have to wait for 3 years before applying for US citizenship. In fact, USCIS recently naturalized spouses of US citizens who did not wait 3 years. This took place in Soul, Korea. Please call or contact our immigration law office for more information on this exciting development.

5. I am now applying for US citizenship and I have a child who is a green card holder that is still under 18 years old. Do I need to separately apply for my child for citizenship for him?

Minor children of US citizens automatically become US citizens once their parent becomes a US citizen. To apply on his own, he or she must be at least 18 years old. Please call our office for details about your specific case.

6. I was arrested but my crime was dropped because I completed PTI (pre-trial intervention). I can apply for US citizenship without any worries, right?

No, you must consult an experienced immigration lawyer before filing for US citizenship. While the criminal records may indicate that the charges are dropped, USCIS has its own legal standards to determine whether the charge is considered dropped for immigration reasons. The answer will depend on an immigration attorney’s review of the all the documents relating to the PTI (pre-trial intervention) agreement. If USCIS determines that part of the PTI agreement required signature of a standard form that states that the applicant admits his or her guilt, then USCIS may consider this to be an admission to the crime and thus a conviction of the crime. Many times this will depend on the county in Florida, for example, where the PTI agreement took place, as each county has their own PTI agreement that they require applicants to sign and some require admitting guilt while others do not. Again, seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney and do NOT assume that your crime was dropped, as USCIS makes its own determination as to this issue when PTI agreements are reached.

7. I am working for a US company abroad. I want to file for US citizenship. Do I have to travel back to US to complete my fingerprints?

Our immigration law office will request from USCIS that fingerprints be completed by the applicant abroad near where they are working. If this is not possible, then we will request that the fingerprint appointment be completed on the same day as the N-400 interview.

8. Why should I hire your office to file my form N-400? I have no crimes, no problems, so why do I need an immigration lawyer to file my US citizenship application?

As you know, filing for your US citizenship is the last and final chapter in your life for dealing with USCIS for your own immigration status. Our immigration law office charges a reasonable fee to make sure your N-400 is completely and correctly submitted, that your fingerprint notice is issued on time for your case (otherwise your case will experience delays), that your N-400 will not be “lost in the system,” and we also prepare you through in-office meeting with our staff for what you can expect at the interview with the USCIS officer.

We will practice with you as though you are really being interviewed by an Immigration Officer. Also, we help you to study, provide real-life sentences and reading samples used by the local USCIS office recently, and help you go through the step-by-step questions the Immigration Officer will ask you about your application regarding the yes or no section and regarding any issues in your case. We will help you with the YES or NO questions so that you can correctly answer the Immigration Officer. If you cannot answer these correctly, the Officer will require that you be rescheduled for another interview appointment, even if you passed the history, reading and writing tests. There is a limit of 2 interviews and then your case will be denied if you are unable to answer the Officer correctly.

We of course will review any criminal record that an applicant may have. Other issues that you may have include and are not limited to the following: travel issues, selective service registration issues, child support payment issues for divorced couples, as well as other issues not mentioned here.

Since this is the last step of your immigration case and since we charge reasonable legal fees, please call our office at 904-448-6646 or contact our immigration law office through email to see how we can help you with your US citizenship application.

9. I have a dependent child that I claim. The child does not live with me. Other than listing that child on the form N-400, are there any other requirements I must meet?

YES there are other requirements you must meet and special documents you must present to the Immigration Officer before you can qualify for US citizenship. Please call our office for more information.

10. GREAT, I am now a US citizen. Is there anything else I need to do or should do?

The USCIS Guide to Naturalization recommends that you now contact the Social Security Administration to provide them proof that you are now a US citizen. Also you should now apply for a US passport. We have links on our home page under Important Government Links for both the nearest Social Security office and contact information as well as exactly where you can apply for a US passport and what documents are needed, etc.

You can now also begin the process for sponsoring your family members and spouse, if relevant. Please see below for more information.

11. Now that I am a US citizen, what are some special benefits?

Some benefits include the following like filing family petitions:

  • You can sponsor your spouse as an IMMEDIATE relative petition
  • You can sponsor your parents for IMMEDIATE relative status for them to receive their green card(s).
  • You can sponsor your siblings, their spouses and minor children
  • You can sponsor your own children whether married or unmarried and whether they are over or under 21 years of age. There are different processing times for each classification, though, and you can call our office for more information.
  • You can vote in US elections.
  • You can reside outside the US without fear of not being able to return to the US.
  • If you are arrested or convicted of any crimes, your legal US status cannot be removed from you because of your crimes. (You can still go to jail of course!).
  • Cannot have left the US for a continuous period of over 1 year within the past 5 years or within the past 3 years if had green card for less than 5 years. If applicant is absent from the US for over 6 months continuously, then applicant will need to explain to Immigration Officer reason for lengthy absence and provide proof to overcome presumption that residence has been abandoned. This can be done with the help of an experienced immigration lawyer.

This article on FAQ’s about US Citizenship is written by US Immigration Law Attorney Lena Korial-Yonan, Esq. of Lena Korial-Yonan, P.A. Lena Korial-Yonan, Esq. has been practicing only US Immigration Law for almost 10 years in Jacksonville, Florida. She graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law located in Gainesville, Florida in 2000. She is an immigrant herself, as she came to the US when she was about 7 years from Iraq. Any comments or questions can be emailed to her at lena@needimmigrationhelp.com or you may call her office directly at (904) 448-6646. Lena Korial-Yonan, Esq. accepts and handles cases from all over the US.

You can read her entire profile at Immigration Law Firm Profile.
Her immigration law firm's website (home page) is http://www.needimmigrationhelp.com.

THIS ARTICLE OR ANY PORTION OF THIS ARTICLE MAY NOT BE RE-PRINTED WITHOUT EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Lena Korial-Yonan, P.A.
9425 Craven Road, Suite 5
Jacksonville, FL 32257
Phone: (904) 448-6646
Facsimile: (904) 448-8221
Email: lena@needimmigrationhelp.com

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