The path to becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen can be a long and difficult one, and naturalization from permanent resident to U.S. citizenship is not always the right path to take. When you apply for U.S. citizenship, you are required to give a lot of personal information to the government. It is possible that applying for naturalization may trigger deportation proceedings against you.

The Path to Citizenship

Mario Flores will fight for immigrant’s rights and help clients navigate the complicated US citizenship and immigration process.  Some common immigration issues requiring legal representation include:

  • Citizenship/ Naturalization
  • Asylum
  • Deportation proceedings
  • Visas
  • Family immigration
  • Lawful permanent residency
  • DREAM Act

When you apply for naturalization, you must disclose the number of visits you have made outside the U.S., as well as the length of those visits. It is possible that you may have unknowingly forfeited your rights as a permanent resident in any trips you have taken in the past.

In addition to your citizenship application being denied, it is possible the government may argue that you are no longer qualified or permitted to be a permanent resident of the United States.

If you have a criminal history, you would definitely not want to apply for U.S. citizenship. This could cause you to be deported from the United States.

Cautionary Circumstances

  • Extended trips outside of the country
  • Criminal convictions
  • Questionable moral character
  • Inability to support the U.S. Constitution

What is Naturalization?

Permanent residents may apply to become U.S. citizens through a process called naturalization. Naturalization is the last step in the U.S. immigration process and is usually the last time the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will review your immigration file  to see whether you are eligible for citizenship and to make sure you are eligible to stay in the United States.

What are the Benefits of Naturalization?

The most important benefit of naturalization is that U.S. citizens cannot be removed or deported from the United States.

If you are a permanent resident, you may want to consider applying for U.S. citizenship. As a U.S. Citizen, you have many rights and privileges, such as:

  • The right to vote
  • The ability to travel freely without restrictions
  • Eligibility to apply for special government jobs
  • Eligibility for public benefits not available to non-citizens

What are the Eligibility Requirements for U.S. Citizenship/Naturalization?

Generally, before you apply for U.S. citizenship:

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You must have continuously resided in the United States as a permanent resident for at least five years.
  • You must have been physically present in the United States for at least two and a half years out of the last five years.
  • You must reside in the state or district in which your citizenship application will be filed for at least three months before you apply.

Meeting these eligibility requirements is just one the steps to becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. You must also show that you have “good moral character,” pass the English literacy and civics test, and promise that you agree with the principles of the U.S. Constitution by taking the Oath of Allegiance.

Good Moral Character Requirement for U.S. Citizenship/Naturalization

Becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen requires that the government must find you are and have been a person of good moral character for the five years before you apply for citizenship.

There are two exceptions to this rule:

  1. If you were convicted of an aggravated felony after November 29, 1990, you will not be allowed to show that you are a person of good moral character, even if you were convicted before the five years before the date of your citizenship application.
  2. Many different kinds of crimes qualify as an aggravated felony under U.S. immigration law, including some state law misdemeanors. If you have any sort of criminal history or have ever been in trouble with the police, you should consult with an immigration attorney before you apply for U.S. citizenship. For instance, even if you were not convicted of an aggravated felony, the government may look at your life before the five years or if doing so would help it determine whether you otherwise lack good moral character.

You should consult an immigration attorney to help you understand the rules and exceptions to the rules.

U.S. Citizenship Exam/Naturalization Test

To become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you must show a basic understanding of the English language, You must also pass a test on United States history and government. However, you may be exempt from both the English test and the U.S. civics and history test if you are physically unable, developmentally disabled, or mentally impaired to comply.

If you fail the English and U.S. civics and history test on your first try, you will be given a second chance to pass either one or both tests within 90 days. If you fail the second time, your citizenship application will be denied.

Five-year Continuous Residency Requirement for U.S. Citizenship/Naturalization

To become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you must have five years of continuous residence since becoming a permanent resident.

Your five years of residence before the date of your citizenship application must be continuous. Any absences of less than six months do not break the continuous residency requirement. But any absence from the United States between six months and one year creates a presumption that you violated the continuous residency requirement.

You can overcome this presumption by providing evidence that you had no intention of giving up your residence in the United States during your absence. It is a good idea to consult with an Austin immigration attorney before you make plans to leave the country for any length of time.

If you are outside the United States for more than one year, you have broken the continuous residency requirement. Generally before becoming eligible for U.S. citizenship, you will have to have had five years of continuous residency from the date you returned to the United States.

If you are outside the United States for more than one year, there is a presumption that you have abandoned your permanent residency in the United States. To prevent this from happening, if you know you will be absent from the United States for more than a year and want to keep your permanent resident status, you should apply for a Re-Entry Permit before you leave the United States.

Let Us Help You With the Naturalization and U.S. Citizenship Process

Applying for naturalization is a confusing process. Not completing the process correctly, making small errors on your application, or not understanding the rules may cause your naturalization application to be denied.

Don’t leave anything to chance. Consult an experienced immigration attorney. The Law Office of Mario Flores stays up-to-date with the ongoing debates regarding immigration reform. Attorney Flores can explain how applying for naturalization may impact your status as a lawful permanent resident. Let him help you decide what path is best for your situation.

Contact the Law Office of Mario Flores, PLLC, for additional information about your legal options. We can also provide legal assistance with immigration, estate planning and family law matters.