Citizenship Basics

USCIS has the authority to grant citizenship after birth.  That is, if you do not already have United States citizenship through blood relation or through birth on U.S. soil, then you may apply for such citizenship.  There are a number of requirements to obtain citizenship.  You should be particularly cautious in applying for citizenship if you have any criminal history, or if you have any previous violations of immigration law.  The application must be filled out completely and accurately in order to be accepted.


What are the Requirements of Citizenship?

Lawful Permanent Residence.  Before one may become a citizen, one must be a lawful permanent residence as defined in the INA.  One should be sure that this status was not obtained in a fraudulent manner and that there are no pending deportation proceedings before applying for citizenship as a Lawful Permanent Resident.

Presence in the United States.  An applicant must reside in the United States for the five years preceding the application, and must be physically present in the U.S. for at least half of that time period. 

Character. There are many questions on the application for citizenship, and many of these focus on good moral character.  An attorney can help you recognize how to best answer these questions and supplement any answers to help best represent you in terms of moral character.

Age.  In order to apply for citizenship, one must be 18 years old.

English.  The applicant must have demonstrated speaking, reading, and writing skills in English.  Speak with an attorney to determine whether any exception to this requirement might apply to you. 

Government/History.  The applicant must demonstrate a basic knowledge of American history and political structure. 

Allegiance to the United States.  The applicant must swear allegiance to the United States.  


Do I need a Citizenship Attorney?

An attorney can help you fill out the lengthy citizenship application as well as prepare with you for the interview process.  Clients often have difficulty with the English Language portion of the test, and there may be a medical or an age waiver available to you.  An attorney can also recognize any issues with your application, such as criminal history or past immigration violations, which might create obstacles during the interview.  It can be dangerous to present information to USCIS without knowledge of your present immigration status and the completeness and acceptability of your application.  Therefore, it is essential to consult with a qualified attorney prior to turning over your personal information to the immigration agency.