There are distinct advantages to becoming an American citizen. For instance, you will be permitted to vote in elections, including elections for the President of the United States. You may also travel and stay outside the United States without limitations on the time spent outside the U.S. Another advantage in becoming a United States citizen is that if you commit an offense that would be a deportable offense, you cannot be placed in removal proceedings as a citizen.
The Atlanta immigration attorneys at Pozo Goldstein, LLP have the experience it takes to represent clients in all citizenship matters. Our firm consists of former U.S. Immigration Prosecutors and a former Judge.
To become a United States citizen you must, in most cases, demonstrate your ability to read, write and speak English; show your knowledge of United States civics; and show that you are a person of good moral character. Another criteria is that you must have been a green card holder for at least five years. There are exceptions to the five year rule for those married to United States citizens and for those in the military. There are also exceptions to the English language requirement and civics test depending on how long you have been a green card holder and your age.
An important term to understand when applying for citizenship is “statutory period”. The statutory period is the five years immediately preceding your application for citizenship? (Three years if you are applying as the spouse of a United States citizen). During the statutory period, you must have been physically present in the United States for more time than you have been absent and you must show that you have been a person of good moral character during the statutory period as well.
In terms of physical presence, the issue is pretty straight-forward as one needs to calculate days absent from the United States. The good moral character issue is a fluid concept that is a reason for many citizenship application denials. If you have committed any unlawful act during the statutory period, you will likely be denied citizenship. If you have failed to pay taxes during the statutory period, you will likely be denied citizenship. If you have failed to pay child support during the statutory period, you will likely be denied citizenship.
Despite the statutory period requirement, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services can look beyond the statutory period and, in some cases, deny citizenship based on events that occurred outside the statutory period. For instance, if you have been convicted of a crime beyond the statutory period that makes you deportable, your citizenship application will either be denied or held in abeyance and you will be placed in removal proceedings before an Atlanta Immigration Judge who will decide whether you remain in the United States or are deported.
Some lawful permanent residents are United States citizens by law and do not realize it. There are laws that, after certain conditions are met, automatically make you a United States citizen. It is important to consult competent legal counsel to determine of this applies to you.
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