Understanding the process of becoming an American citizen is important not only for those who wish to do so, but also for undocumented workers and green card holders currently residing in the United States, and their families.
While having a green card provides some advantages, having American citizenship presents many more opportunities. First of all, a green card holder must renew a green card every ten years, and every time he moves he must inform the government. He can lose his legal status if he leaves the country and then stays outside beyond the limit allowed, and he risks not be allowed to come back in if he is not granted a reentry permit.
U.S. citizens can obtain a passport which allows them unrestricted reentry. They can carry a gun, vote and receive full social security benefits. They have more opportunities to apply for higher education scholarships and can apply for government jobs. Children can become U.S. citizens as well as extended family. And of course, U.S. citizens cannot be deported.
The process of naturalization
There are two main ways of becoming a U.S. citizen, through naturalization and by acquisition. Acquisition applies to children whose parents are U.S. citizens apply on their behalf either at birth or before they reach the age of 18.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has a ten-step process for determining eligibility for citizenship:
- Determine if applicant is already a U.S. citizen by birth or through parents
- If not, review a worksheet to discover eligibility status
- Prepare Form N-400
- Submit Form N-400 and pay fees
- Make an appointment to have biometrics taken if required
- Complete an interview with USCIS
- Based on the Form N-400, USCIS will either grant eligibility, continue the process by requiring additional information, or deny eligibility based on the evidence in the applicant’s record
- If approved, schedule participation in a naturalization ceremony
- Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States
- Review the rights and responsibilities of citizenship
The frequent changes in U.S. immigration law can make the process seem confusing and difficult. At Cynthia I. Waisman, P.A. in the Tampa and Clearwater area, our experienced immigration law attorneys can help you to decide what is best for your situation, whether it is an adjustment of resident status or citizenship, and will help guide you through every step of the process.