Dispelling Myths About Citizenship
Someone from a foreign country who has been in the United States and achieved lawful permanent resident (LPR) status may wonder whether it’s worth the extra effort to become a U.S. citizen. After all, they have a job, a home, maybe a family, and things are going well.
However, there’s a big difference between having a green card (LPR status) and being a citizen. Even with a green card, traveling abroad to visit relatives can require extra legal hoops such as a re-entry pass. And, you also can be deported for crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies.
If you are an immigrant weighing the benefits of citizenship, or feel that you may not qualify, and you’re in or around Corpus Christi, Texas, contact the immigration attorneys at The Torres Law Firm. We can explain the process – and the benefits – to you and then help you navigate the system. The Torres Attorneys also proudly serve clients in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas.
Qualifying for U.S. Citizenship
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), to be eligible to become a citizen, you must:
Be at least 18 years of age
Have been authorized to live in the U.S. as a permanent resident (green card holder) for five years or three years if married to a U.S. citizen
Have continuous residence and physical presence in the U.S.
Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
Demonstrate good moral character
Demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and government
Demonstrate loyalty to the principles of the U.S. Constitution
Take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States
Common Myths About Becoming a Citizen
Throughout our years of helping immigrants through the naturalization process to become citizens, we have encountered several common myths, including the following:
Citizenship is no different than permanent resident status.
While having a green card allows you to live legally in the United States, it does not prevent you from being deported and establishes barriers to traveling abroad. Green cards also need to be renewed. Once you become a citizen, you can obtain a passport and travel freely, and no court or other administrative body can order you to be removed from the country. In addition, you will receive the full protections of the U.S. Constitution, which includes the right to vote in federal elections.
If my children are citizens of the U.S., I won’t get deported.
Any child born in the United States automatically becomes a citizen, but that status does not extend to a parent who is not yet a citizen or who is here illegally. You can still be deported for overstaying your visa or committing a crime. When your child or children become of legal age, however, they can sponsor you to become a citizen.
Being married to a U.S. citizen automatically makes me a citizen as well.
Not exactly, you still must obtain lawful permanent (LPR) status and then reside with your U.S. citizen spouse for at least three years to qualify for naturalization. Also, consider the other qualifications listed above. You must meet all of those as well.
“Continuous residence” and “physical presence” are the same thing.
Note that the USCIS list of qualifying factors for citizenship includes the requirement to have “continuous residence” and “physical presence” in the U.S. for three or five years, depending on your category, to become a citizen. Continuous residence means you must have maintained residence within the U.S. for either five or three years. Physical presence means that if you are in the five-year category, you must have actually been present in the country for 30 months during that period. For the three-year category, physical presence means 18 months minimum within the U.S.
If my citizenship application is denied, there is nothing I can do.
Wrong. You have the right to request a hearing with a different immigration officer. You have 30 days to do so after the denial using USCIS form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings. You will also be required to submit a filing fee. If the second hearing results in a denial, you can submit the application to a federal district court which will conduct what is called a “de novo” review.
Having a criminal conviction disqualifies me for citizenship.
This largely depends on the crime. If you have been convicted of murder or aggravated assault, you will face deportation and also be barred from applying for citizenship. Lesser crimes will not have the same effect to bar your naturalization. Aggravated assault crimes include rape, sexual assault of children, drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and fraud in a certain amount. In other words, your conviction must be for a serious crime before it prevents you from becoming a citizen.
Immigration Guidance You Can Trust
Your best bet in navigating the United States naturalization process is to obtain the services of a qualified immigration attorney who has knowledge and experience in helping others become citizens. The attorneys at The Torres Law Firm have helped countless others like you. If you’re in the Corpus Christi, Dallas, or Fort Worth areas of Texas, contact us immediately with all your citizenship questions and concerns.