What Is Naturalization? Who Qualifies For It?
Naturalization is the process by which a foreign citizen becomes a United States citizen. Naturalization is the final step of the immigration process and grants the applicant all the benefits and protections that United States citizens have. The requirements for naturalization are established under the Immigration and Nationality Act as:
-Being a lawful resident for a period of at least 5 years (or three years if filing as a spouse of a United States citizen);
-Having held continuous residence in the United States during the 5 year time period (that is, over half of the applicant’s time is inside the United States);
-Being able to read, write, and speak basic English, as well as have a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and governance;
-Being a person of good moral character and living by the principles of the Constitution.
What Is Considered ‘Being A Person Of Good Moral Character?’
The Immigration and Nationality Act also sets forth a series of behaviors that would be considered going against being a person of good moral character. This list includes:
-One or more crimes involving moral turpitude (or conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty, or good morals;
-Two or more offenses with a combined sentence of five or more years;
-Controlled substance violation (use, possession, or distribution);
-Incarceration for longer than 180 days;
-Perjury (false testimony under oath);
-Being an accomplice in smuggling a person into the country;
-Being a polygamist or committing adulterous acts;
-Willfully does not provide alimony or;
-Unlawful acts that would be considered ‘immoral.’
If you believe that you will not be considered by the courts to have “good moral character,” you should talk with an experienced immigration lawyer. They can review your behavior and formulate the best defense for if the court questions your moral compass.
What Is A Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) And Who Is Eligible?
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a relatively new program to help immigrants brought to the United States as children obtain a two-year work permit. Once a person is approved for DACA, they may continue to renew their permit every two years provided that they continue to meet the requirements. The DACA does not directly transfer into citizenship, but it can help the chances of the applicant to get citizenship. To be eligible for the DACA, an applicant must:
-Have entered the United States prior to turning 16 years old
-Have been under 31 years old on the day that the program was announced (June 15th, 2012)
-Have graduated high school, have an equivalent degree (GED), or are currently in school
-Have five years of continuous presence prior to the announcement (June 15th 2007-June 15th 2012)
-Not be convicted of certain criminal offenses
Are There Any Deferred Actions For Parents? Who Is Eligible For This?
Yes, a Deferred Action for Parents allows for parents of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to apply for temporary protection against deportation. In order to be eligible for consideration of a Deferred Action for Parents, an applicant must:
-Be the parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
-Have continuously lived in the United States since January 1st, 2010
-Have been in the United States on November 20th, 2014 – and possibly be present for every day from November 20th 2014 until you apply for a DAP. You also must not have lawful immigration status on November 20th, 2014 (i.e. you must have entered the United States without papers, or your lawful immigration status had expired previous to that date).
-Not have a lawful immigration status at the time you apply for the DAP.
-Have not been convicted of certain offenses that show a ‘poor moral character’
I’m Thinking Of Hiring An Immigration Consultant Or Notary Because They’ll Cost Me Less, Are There Any Downsides Going This Route?
Though immigration consultants and notaries can help you tremendously in the immigration process, neither of them are lawyers and thus, it is illegal for them to provide you with legal advice. Further, they cannot represent you before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, so you will have to argue your case by yourself. Many notaries and consultants will lead you to believe that they can handle all aspects of the case, but in all situations, they cannot represent you like an attorney can. If you are considering hiring either a notary or a consultant, keep in mind that the USCIS recommends against it.