A citizenship and naturalization lawyer’s job is to turn the dream of U.S. citizenship into a reality. While not everyone qualifies for citizenship, we know that becoming an American is a life-changing and momentous event. At Nesbit Law Office, we’re proud to help our immigrant neighbors with the naturalization and citizenship process. Learn more about how a citizenship lawyer might help you.
The Basics of American Citizenship and Naturalization
For many immigrants, U.S. citizenship is the ultimate goal. There are essentially two ways to become a citizen:
- Birthright: You were born in the United States or one of your parents is a U.S. citizen
- Naturalization: You complete a legal process that confirms your commitment to the United States
While birthright citizenship is relatively easy to prove, naturalization is much more complicated. The United States government carefully examines every application for citizenship — and a single error can lead to a denial.
However, the process is worthwhile and offers naturalized citizens numerous benefits. As an American citizen, you can do the following:
- Extend your citizenship to your minor children (under 18 years old)
- Hold a public office (other than President or Vice President)
- Travel with the protections of a U.S. passport
- Vote in all federal, state, and local elections
- Help other family members enter the United States through family reunification programs
Citizens also have important responsibilities, such as supporting and defending the United States. To learn more about the benefits and duties associated with U.S. citizenship, contact Nesbit Law Office.
Do I Qualify for Naturalization?
Not everyone qualifies for naturalization. Typically, you must prove that you:
- Are at least 18 years old
- Have been a legal permanent resident (green card holder) for at least five years
- Meet strict residency and physical presence requirements
- Have a good moral character
- Can read, write, and speak English
- Have a strong knowledge of U.S. history, civics, and governance
- Are committed to the principles of the U.S. Constitution
While some of these requirements are relatively simple to understand, others are much more complicated. If you’re unsure whether you qualify for naturalization, schedule a consultation with a citizenship lawyer at Nesbit Law Office. We will listen to your story and walk you through the analysis.
How Do I Apply for U.S. Citizenship?
If you are eligible for naturalization, you should strongly consider speaking with a citizenship lawyer before you start the naturalization process. A lawyer can help you prepare for naturalization and its rigorous tests and interviews. He might also identify and correct any potential red flags that could delay your application or result in a denial. (For example, a criminal history, unpaid taxes, or past due child support can impact your case.)
Once you have built a naturalization strategy and organized your documents, you and your citizenship lawyer will file an Application for Naturalization with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The agency will then review your application and request additional information, including:
- Biometric data, such as fingerprints (when necessary)
- A naturalization interview, asking you questions about your application, background, and personal history
- Civics and U.S. history testing
- English testing
- Other relevant information
Based on your results, USCIS will either grant, continue, or deny your application. If they grant your application, you will take an oath of citizenship. If USCIS continues or denies your application, your naturalization lawyer can help you understand your rights and options.
However, if your application is denied and you don’t already have a citizenship lawyer, it’s in your best interest to contact one immediately. This is particularly true if USCIS alleges that you provided inaccurate or false information when you applied for your green card. You might face deportation if your misstatements were very serious and you’ll need an aggressive immigration lawyer to fight back.
Permanent Resident vs. Naturalized Citizen: What’s the Difference?
Many elect to reside in the U.S. their entire lives without becoming a naturalized citizen. For others, full citizenship is the goal. The question then becomes: Is it worth the effort to go through naturalization and become a full-fledged U.S. citizen? What can U.S. citizens do that legal residents and lawful green card holders can’t?
Your Rights Under the Law Don’t Change Much
Green card holders and citizens alike are subject to the same laws and rights as natural-born citizens. In some cases, the Constitution of United States even protects those who are unlawfully working in the U.S. For instance, courts have ruled that just because a business illegally hired undocumented workers, doesn’t absolve them from owing their workers the same wages as U.S. citizens. The workers were, of course, deported, but they were also allowed to collect damages from the owner who illegally hired them. Permanent residents do have a right to work in the United States legally.
In addition, the law protects legal residents from illegal searches and seizures (the Fourth and Fifth Amendment) and have the right to free speech and the practice of their religion (the First Amendment). If a lawful permanent resident is charged with a crime, they have the same rights as a naturalized or natural born citizen.
What Rights Do You Gain With Citizenship?
There are a number of rights that citizens have that non-citizens do not have. To the extent that these are useful to you, they represent a great reason to pursue naturalization. Citizens of the United States, including naturalized citizens, have the right to vote. They can also hold public office.
In addition, the privileges and immunities clause in the 14th Amendment applies to citizens only. It prevents one state from discriminating against those who live in another state. This includes the right to travel between states.
What about the right to bear arms (the Second Amendment)? It’s unclear as to whether or not the legal permanent residents have a right to bear arms under the Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has never rendered an opinion on that so it may depend entirely on where you live.
One of the biggest reasons people elect to become U.S. citizens is that it makes it easier for them to get family green cards for family members who live in their country of origin.
Can My Green Card Be Revoked?
Anti-immigration efforts of the past two presidencies have targeted lawful legal residents who are found guilty of some crimes. Suffice it to say, green cards can be revoked, sometimes for little more than a drug offense. Citizens have much broader protection under the law.
Can Citizenship Be Revoked?
When a naturalized citizen’s citizenship is revoked, this is called “denaturalization”. It is exceptionally rare. Once you’re a citizen, it is much more difficult to lawfully deport you than it otherwise would be if you are a legal resident. Only under the following conditions can a naturalized citizen be denaturalized:
- Falsification of information presented during the naturalization process. It’s important for those who apply for citizenship in the U.S. to be honest in answering any questions. Misleading U.S. officials is grounds for denaturalization.
- Refusal to testify before Congress. If Congress wants to interview you in connection with subversive or seditious acts like harming a government official or attempting to overthrow the U.S. government, you cannot refuse to testify unless you’ve been in the U.S. for 10 years or longer.
- Joining a subversive group. If the government can prove that you joined a subversive group within the first five years of undergoing naturalization, they can revoke your citizenship. If you absolutely must join a subversive group, elect to do so in your sixth year.
- Dishonorable discharge from military service. One way that many choose to become naturalized citizens is by joining the U.S. military. If, however, you are dishonorably discharged, you can be denaturalized and deported.
Denaturalization is a legal process and the government must initiate charges against you. It is much more difficult to denaturalize a naturalized citizen than it is to revoke a green card.
Schedule an Appointment With a Citizenship and Naturalization Lawyer
If you’re ready to speak with a citizenship lawyer, contact Nesbit Law Office for a no-risk consultation today. We represent immigrants in the greater Columbus area and pride ourselves on both hands-on, personalized attention and advice. We look forward to speaking with you.