The United States of America is a land of opportunity for many people. However, there are several special rights that are only offered to citizens of the U.S. Citizenship can be obtained in two ways: it is either granted to those who are born in America or it can be bestowed through a process called naturalization. If you or someone you know would like to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization, you probably have many questions. In today’s post from the immigration lawyer Robert David Baker, we’re going to try to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the naturalization process. Keep reading and if you’re looking for a trusted immigration lawyer in the San Jose or Bay area, please give us a call.

Benefits of U.S. Citizenship

If you weren’t born in America, and your parents aren’t citizens, obtaining citizenship can be a long and complicated process. You might even wonder if it’s even worth it at times. The fact is, U.S citizens are granted many benefits that others aren’t privy to. Here are just a few of them:

  • Ability to vote in federal elections
  • Eligibility for federal jobs
  • Priority when it comes to bringing family members to the U.S.
  • Eligible to become an elected official
  • Assistance while traveling abroad when carrying a U.S. passport

There are several other benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen which is why so many people seek naturalization. Unfortunately, the myriad of complex immigration laws can make it difficult to fully understand the steps that need to be taken. Here are just a few of the most commonly asked questions we get. 

How do I become a U.S. citizen?

This answer is probably the easiest to answer. There are only two ways to become a U.S. citizen — either through birth or naturalization.

What if I wasn’t born here, but my parents are U.S. citizens?

The law actually states that you either have to be born in the U.S. or you have to be born to U.S. citizens. Therefore, in most cases, if at least one of your parents is a U.S. citizen then you are automatically granted citizenship. There are a few rules and exceptions so you’ll want to consult with an immigration lawyer to get all of the details.

What are the requirements for naturalization?

There are many different types of people who wish to gain citizenship in the United States. Some have been living in America for several years, and some have even served in the U.S. military. Because there are so many different circumstances, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has outlined rules for determining naturalization requirements. 

The majority of people pursuing naturalization generally fall into one category — they are over 18 and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years. In order to meet the requirements for naturalization, they must also show that they are a person of good moral character, be able to meet certain English and civics requirements, and also take an oath of allegiance. As mentioned, depending on your circumstances, there may be other requirements that pertain to you.

Do I need to tell someone if I was previously convicted of a crime?

When filling out the naturalization application, you’ll be asked about any crimes you have committed, and you should be forthcoming about anything that is on your record or has been removed. If you don’t admit to offenses that are revealed at a later date, you may be denied naturalization.  

What are some examples that demonstrate a lack of good moral character?

One of the requirements of becoming a naturalized citizen is that you must show that you’re a person of good character. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know exactly what kind of actions can cast a shadow on your character in the eyes of the U.S. government. In some cases, an attorney may be able to improve your record by, for example, requesting a charge be expunged.

The following is a list of some of the things that could harm your reputation and prevent your application from being accepted. However, you should consult with an attorney to determine whether anything can be done to improve your reputation. This is by no means all-encompassing and each person will be considered on a case by case basis. 

  • Committing a crime against a person with the intent to harm
  • Violating any controlled substance law
  • Committing a crime that involves fraud or evil intent
  • Committing two or more crimes for which the total sentence was 5 years or more
  • Lying to gain immigration benefits

How long will it take to become naturalized?

The time it takes to become naturalized will vary by location, and it can take quite a while. Once you submit the required application, expect the process to take upwards of six months before you receive citizenship. 

What do I do if my application has been denied?

If you think that your naturalization application has been unjustly denied, you may file for an appeal and request a meeting with an immigration officer. If you have still been denied after your appeal hearing, you may file a petition for a new review of your application.

Contact An Immigration Lawyer You Can Trust

At the law office of Robert David Baker, we understand that it can be difficult to navigate the complex U.S. legal system to gain citizenship. That’s why it’s important to find a lawyer you can trust to help guide you through the process and help answer any questions you may have. Don’t take a chance on your future — call the immigration lawyer who has been serving the San Jose community for over 30 years — contact Robert David Baker today to schedule your consultation.