U.S. CITIZENSHIPBy Ashima Arora*The importance of obtaining United States Citizenship cannot beoveremphasized. A naturalized U.S. Citizen has almost all the rights exceptto run for the President of America. A person holding a lawful permanentresident status (commonly referred to as “Green Card”) runs the risk ofloosing status if they stay oversees for more than six months or are convictedof crime involving moral turpitude or aggravated felony. The crimes ofmoral turpitude and aggravated felony are more often subjectively decidedand do not have set parameters. For instance a simple assault for pushingspouse can be considered as a crime involving moral turpitude in one statebut not in the other. While no one intends to commit a crime but sometimesone can be a victim of crime and find one in removal proceedings.Benefits:Some of the benefits of obtaining U.S. Citizenship are: Right to obtain U.S. Passport; Right to stay oversees for any length of time without fear of loosing their legal permanent resident status; Only U.S. citizens have right to Vote and are able to hold elected public office; U.S. citizens are able to sponsor immediate relatives (spouses, unmarried minor children and parents) for Legal Permanent Resident status without a long wait for a visa to become available. Citizens may also sponsor these other relatives, subject to visa availability: a. unmarried adult sons and daughters; b. married sons and daughters; and, c. brothers and sisters. Eligibility for many government-related jobs which often are restricted to citizens only;
Citizens are always eligible for many government assistance and benefits programs, Social Security and Medicare benefits, which many non-citizens may not be. Adopted or Natural Children under 18 May be Naturalized automatically when a parent becomes citizen. A citizen cannot be removed or deported Exemption of estate taxes-The unlimited marital deduction which allows one to leave mostly everything to spouse without having to pay estate taxes does not apply to non-US citizens. Requirements: U.S. Citizenship can be obtained by i. birth in the U.S. or certain other places, ii. the citizenship of one or more parents or iii. Combination of location and parents’ citizenship and iv. by Naturalization. In this article, we will be only focusing on Naturalization. Now that we know benefits, we discuss the eligibility for Naturalization. Generally a person can become a U.S. citizen if below criteria are met:1. Be a lawful permanent U.S. resident;2. Be 18 years of age or older;3. Be a permanent resident for not less than five years. (If a person obtained permanent residence through marriage to a U.S. citizen, they may be eligible for naturalization in three years if the couple has been married for 3 years, if the spouse was a citizen during that entire period, and if the couple are still living in marital unity);4. Have resided for at least three months in the state where the petition was filed;5. Be physically present in the United States for at least one half of the five years (or one half of three if spouse is a citizen), with no absences longer than six months;6. Have resided continuously within the United States from the date the petition was filed to the time of admission to citizenship;7. Have been a person of good moral character for the five years of residence (or in the case of a souse of a USC three years, or person in the military one year);8. Have an elementary level of reading and writing English. (Exceptions to this rule exist for persons over 50, in the US for 20 years or more as a
permanent resident; and for persons over 55 , in the US for 15 years as a permanent resident); and 9. Have a basic knowledge of the fundamentals of U.S. government and history. (This requirement can be waived for people over 65 and have been permanent resident for 20 years.)10. Persons who are physically or developmentally disabled or have a mental impairment are exempt from the English language and history and government requirements. Please note than members of U.S. Armed forces do not necessarily have to be permanent resident and are an exception to the above listed general requirements. Dual Citizenship The concept of dual citizenship means having nationality of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy and must be looked at simultaneously.1 Dual Nationality is permitted though not encouraged by United States if: i. A foreign state does not divest its citizens of their citizenship upon naturalization in foreign country i.e. upon their naturalization in U.S; ii. Naturalization of U.S. Citizen in a foreign country that does not require U.S. Citizen to renounce his or her U.S. Citizenship; iii. Birth in United States to foreign nationals of countries that follow the principle of jus sanguinis2. A dual national must use his/her U.S. Passport when entering or leaving United States. Having detailed the importance and general criteria for naturalization, you must take extra caution if you admitted to certain crimes though you may not be convicted. Even though it may not be a conviction, the underlying admissions of facts may bar you not only from naturalization but can place you in removal. For instance theft crimes are considered as crime involving 1 For your convenience, a link to citizenship laws of the world is posted at ashimachocklaw.com under resources. 2 The principle that a persons nationality at birth is the same as that of his natural parents
moral turpitude. Further during Naturalization process, your initial greencard application is also scrutinized for plausible fraud.All applications for Naturalization are submitted on USCIS form N-400along with supporting documentation establishing eligibility, fees andphotographs.*Attorney Ashima Arora is licensed in Texas, California (inactive), Solicitor(non-practicing) in England & Wales. For questions emailat email@example.com or call at: 713.595.6657 or mail: P.O. Box940543, Houston, TX 77094-7543The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to providea general understanding of the law.