The ABCs of Naturalization and Immigration Law
If you were born outside of the United States of America, immigrate and become an American citizen, it is said you are naturalized. The following defines some topics you need to know in order to obtain U.S. citizenship through naturalization.
A visa allows you to travel to the United States as far as the port of entry (airport or land border crossing) and ask the immigration officer to allow you to enter the country. Only the immigration officer has the authority to permit you to enter the United States. He or she decides how long you can stay for any particular visit. Immigration matters are the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
There are two categories of U.S. visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant. Immigrant visas are for people who intend to live permanently in the U.S. Nonimmigrant visas are for people with permanent residence outside the U.S. but who wish to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis – for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study.
A green card gives an individual who is not a U.S. citizen the legal right to live and work in the United States permanently. This is called lawful permanent resident status. It is possible to apply for many government jobs with a green card. A recipient of a green card also has the right to sponsor some relatives for green cards. You may keep your present citizenship, and you may apply for U.S. citizenship at a later time. There are restrictions on lawful permanent resident status: individuals with criminal activity, after receiving the green card, may end up losing it; you cannot vote with a green card; and travel has certain restrictions. Green card holders also receive health, education and other benefits.
Adjustment Of Status
An application to register permanent resident is done while an individual is residing in the United States. This is done on USCIS form I-485. This process is not available for all applicants and is often filed in connection with other applications. Caution should be exercised when filing for adjustment of status as there are many pitfalls, and an improperly filed adjustment of status case can lead to serious consequences including deportation.
Citizenship in the United States of America can be achieved in two ways, through birth or naturalization. When you are born in the United States, you are automatically a U.S. citizen. You are also a U.S. citizen if both of your parents were born in the United States.
The process of naturalization is a step-by-step procedure taken by individuals who were not born in the U.S. but want to become citizens of the United States of America.
The general requirements for administrative naturalization include:
- A period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States
- Residence in a particular USCIS District prior to filing
- An ability to read, write and speak English
- Knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government
- Good moral character
- Attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution
- Favorable disposition toward the United States
Formerly known as deportation, this is the formal removal of an alien from the United States when the alien has been found removable for violating the immigration laws. Deportation is ordered by an immigration judge without any punishment being imposed. Prior to April 1997, deportation and exclusion were separate removal procedures. Now called removal, this function is managed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Deportation of immigrants and other individuals may result as a consequence for entering the United States illegally. You can also be deported if you are not a citizen and have committed a serious crime.
Removal: The process of forcibly deporting a person from the United States. There are citizens who have been convicted of a criminal offense, and people who are found in the United State illegally. Unfortunately, most immigrants end up in removal proceedings through their own fault. If you are seeking U.S. citizenship, and you have at any time in your life, anywhere in the world, been arrested, contact an immigration attorney to discuss the potential risks of filing the application. Remember, your criminal file, regardless of whether or not your records were sealed and regardless of how long ago the crime occurred, does not go away for immigration purposes. This is a common misconception and should be considered carefully before any immigration process is pursued or any travel is contemplated.
Contact our experienced attorney in Clearwater or Tampa, Florida, today to discuss your immigration and naturalization questions.