Certification of Citizenship Application Naturalization Application
What is a Certificate of Citizenship and Who Qualifies?
A certificate of citizenship is what the name implies; it is a document which certifies that an individual is a US Citizen. In some cases, an individual may be a US Citizen by an operation of law, but has no proof. In such situations, the individual may apply for Certification of Citizenship.
There are many situations where an individual may claim US Citizenship. The most obvious claim to citizenship is based on being born on US soil, which provides Citizenship by 'right of land' (Jus Soli). In these cases, people have their births registered and wouldn't need to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship.
If you were born to US Citizen parents, then you may claim US Citizenship by 'right of blood' (Jus Sanguinis). For citizenship by right of birth, at least one parent must be a US Citizen at the time of birth, but there are limits. If both parents are US Citizens are you were born outside the US, one of the Citizen parents must have been a resident in the US before the child's birth. If one parent is a US Citizen, and the other is not, the Citizen parent must have been physically present in the US before the child was born for 5 years with at least 2 of those years occurring before turning 14.
Claims to Citizenship also occur by operation of law when a parent naturalizes under certain circumstances as well.
Physical presence in the US of a US Citizen Grandparent may be a relevant factor in an "expeditious naturalization" cases.
When can I Obtain a Certification of Citizenship?
After you apply for a certification of citizenship, you should receive a decision within a few months. The timing varies from office to office. Check with USCIS for an estimate.
Are There Other Ways to Obtain Proof of Citizenship?
It is possible to simply apply for a US passport and avoid applying for Certification of Citizenship, since statutory law recognizes that a passport is all that is needed in order to prove US Citizenship. The same evidence presented to prove citizenship in a certification of citizenship application can be presented to the local Passport Agency Office (and not Passport Application Acceptance Facilities). This may require you to obtain proof of intent to travel in the form of tickets and reservations, since the Passport Agency Offices may only schedule applicants who are traveling within two weeks.
In cases where a US Citizen grandparent's physical presence is a relevant factor in establishing eligibility for "expeditious naturalization," only USCIS has authority to grant citizenship.
What is the Attorney's Role in a Certification of Citizenship Case?
The laws surrounding claims to Citizenship can be complicated. An attorney will be able to cite specific statutory law and organize supporting documentation to the satisfaction of a USCIS or DOS reviewing officer in cases where an individual has a claim to citizenship by operation of law.
What is a Naturalization and Who Qualifies?
Naturalization is the process of going from immigrant status to US Citizen status. You must i) continuously hold a green card for 57 months (33 months if the green card was obtained through marriage to a US Citizen), ii) have knowledge of the English language, iii) have familiarity of US Civics and History, and iv) be of good moral character.
You may apply for a reentry permit if you wish to spend 1-2 years outside the US, but spending 1 year outside the US will break continuity of residence. Trips of 6 months to 364 days may also break continuity, but you may have an opportunity to prove that continuity was not broken.
There are exemptions from the English language test. If you are 50, and have been a green card holder for 20 years, you may be exempt. If you are 55, and have been a green card holder for 15 years, you may also be exempt. There are also disability exemptions.
For those who are at least 65, and have been a green card holder for 20 years, a simplified civics and history test may be administered. There are also disability exemptions to the civics and history test.
Good moral character is somewhat subjective, and the reviewing officer will take into consideration things such as declarations others, community service, arrests, convictions, habitual drunkenness, etc. The standard for good moral character is that of the average citizen in the community where you live.
When can I Obtain Citizenship Through Naturalization?
You may apply for naturalization after 4 years and 9 months (57 months) from the date you received your green card, or 2 years and 9 months (33 months) if you received your green card through marriage to a US Citizen or VAWA. You must have been physically present in the US for 30 months or 18 months if you received your green card through marriage, just as long as you did not break continuity of your residence in the US.
What are the Benefits and Limitations of Applying for Naturalization?
Naturalization is ideally the goal of nearly all immigrants in the US. You may apply to obtain a US passport as soon as you become a US Citizen through naturalization. As a US Citizen, you can not be deported or lose citizenship, even if you commit a crime or choose to live anywhere else in the world, for any amount of time. US Citizens can also have more options to petition for green cards for close relatives. You also become eligible to vote in elections and apply for government jobs restricted only to US Citizens.
Naturalization is not irreversible, however. If it is discovered that you were not eligible for naturalization, or that you were not eligible for a green card at the time you acquired it (for example, marriage fraud or asylum fraud), then your citizenship may be revoked and you may be subject to removal. Also, if your home country does not recognize dual citizenship, you could lose citizenship in your home country. Loss of citizenship in your home country may have an adverse impact on property rights.
What is the Attorney's Role in a Naturalization Case?
In a straightforward naturalization case where there are no complications, often people find that they may apply for naturalization without the help of an attorney. Some people still feel somewhat uncomfortable facing a USCIS officer alone, and would like someone to attend the interview with them. A naturalization applicant may only bring in an interpreter if necessary and an attorney. For some people, applying for naturalization might actually create problems, so in cases where there are complications (arrests/convictions, breaks in continuity), it is highly recommended that the case is at least reviewed by an immigration lawyer.
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