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What Are the Requirements For U.S. Citizenship?

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    Applying for U.S. citizenship is a potentially life-changing process. Gaining U.S. citizenship will give you more rights, such as voting, leaving and entering the country at any time, and having a U.S. passport. It is important to know what the requirements for U.S. citizenship are for your application to be successful.

    What Are the Requirements For U.S. Citizenship

    Some of the requirements for U.S. citizenship are straightforward, while others are a bit more nuanced. Generally speaking, the requirements are:

    • Be at least 18 years of age at the time of application
    • Be a lawful permanent resident (also known as a green card holder) for five years (or three if married to a U.S. citizen)
    • Have continuous residence and physical presence in the U.S. for five years prior to making the application
    • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
    • Have knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government
    • Demonstrate respect for the U.S. Constitution and be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance
    • Show good moral character

    Four points tend to cause the most doubts and problems: having a continuous residence and physical permanence in the United States, the English language requirement, the civic test, and the good moral requirement. We will give you the details of each one so that you know how to adapt and comply with each point.


    Continuous Residence and Physical Permanence in the United States

    The first thing you should know about the continuous residence and physical presence requirement is that it does not mean that you cannot travel outside the country. You can travel outside the U.S. as long as you return within six months.

    Another aspect that the USCIS officer will take into account is the frequency of your travel. There is no set limit, but it is important to keep this in mind.

    Normally, the USCIS will assume that you do not meet the permanent residency requirement if your trip outside the United States extends for more than six months. However, you will still have a chance to apply if it did not exceed one year, as long as you have some way to explain that this situation was not intentional.

    Some situations that will help your case are: you were employed in the U.S. during that time and did not seek employment outside the country; your children were still studying in the U.S. and you paid their tuition; you continued to pay your bills while you were out of the country.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that although you are required to be a lawful resident for 5 or 3 years (depending on the type of applicant you are), a typical applicant must have physically lived in the United States for at least 2.5 years. If the applicant is married to a U.S. citizen, the required time is 1.5 years. In other words, even if you are allowed to leave the country, you must make sure that the total time that you physically live in the U.S. meets the required time. In addition, the applicant must prove that they have lived in the state or USCIS district they are applying for for at least three months prior to their naturalization application.


    The English Test

    The English Test

    The English test is part of the process of applying for U.S. citizenship. It is intended to demonstrate the ability to use the English language in ordinary contexts. In other words, it is to demonstrate that the applicant can understand and express themselves in a comprehensible and pertinent manner, even if they make pronunciation, spelling, or grammatical mistakes. During the test, the applicant may ask for words to be repeated or rephrased.

    If the applicant is 50 years of age or older and has lived as a lawful permanent resident in the United States for at least 20 years, or if the applicant is 55 years of age or older and has lived as a lawful permanent resident in the United States for more than 15 years, they may be exempt from taking this test.

    The English requirement does not apply if the applicant has a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last at least 12 months. This medical impairment must be demonstrated by a clinical or laboratory diagnosis.


    Civics Test

    Civic knowledge tests are used to demonstrate that the applicant knows and understands the fundamentals of U.S. history, principles, and government. The civics test is given orally; the USCIS system randomly selects the test questions and the officer asks them. You will be asked ten questions of which you must answer six questions correctly.

    There are some considerations that are taken into account when implementing the test to adapt it and to ensure that it is fair to the applicant. The officer will consider age, level of education, length of residence in the U.S., and other factors that may impact the test outcome.

    As in the case of the English test, the civics test also has a medical exception, accompanied by its respective clinical evidence. This test, however, has another peculiarity. If the applicant is 50 years of age or older and has lived as a lawful permanent resident in the United States for at least 20 years, or if the applicant is 55 years of age or older and has lived as a lawful permanent resident in the United States for more than 15 years, they may take the test in their language of choice with an interpreter.


    Good Moral Character

    Good Moral Character

    Good moral character is understood as having values that are acceptable for living in society. USCIS will consider that the applicant has not been convicted of crimes such as murder or fraud, has not lied during the naturalization interview, and has not been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol more than twice during the statutory period of permanent residence (3 or 5 years depending on the type of applicant).

    The application process for U.S. citizenship can be stressful and tedious. There are many documents and forms to file, and each has different specifications. That is why it is best to have an immigration lawyer to increase your chances of success. At AMS Law Group, we have immigration lawyers who have helped hundreds of people obtain U.S. citizenship. Contact us to help you through the process. We can assist you in English, Spanish, and Arabic to help you in the best way possible.

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