One of the most common paths to U.S. citizenship is to acquire a green card and then pursue naturalization. If you're going to follow this path, a naturalization attorney will encourage you to follow these four steps.
Establishing Eligibility for a Green Card
Folks at the very beginning of the process will need to establish that they are eligible for a green card. There are numerous categories of eligible people, including those who can apply based on family relationships, employment, or refugee status. Anyone who is unsure about their eligibility should contact a green card lawyer. Once you've explained your situation to a greed card attorney, they can tell you whether you're likely to be eligible.
Maintain the Green Card in Good Standing
Once you've obtained a green card, you'll need to maintain it in good standing as a permanent resident. If you're the spouse of a U.S. citizen, you can apply for naturalization after three years of green card status. Otherwise, you'll need to wait at least five years.
During that time, you'll have to maintain your status according to the government's grant of your visa. Suppose you're employed by a sponsoring company. During the period of your employment, you'll have to maintain your job with the sponsor. If your employment status changes, you'll have to either find a new sponsor or seek a different visa. Folks in changing situations should contact a green card lawyer immediately once they know a status change might happen because this is a tricky part of the system for them to navigate.
Notably, you must keep your status without other disruptions, too. If you're convicted of a deportable crime, for example, that would likely disrupt your status.
Eligibility for Naturalization
Once the requisite period has passed, you will be eligible for naturalization if you are at least 18 years of age. Likewise, you must demonstrate the ability to read, write, and speak basic English competently. Finally, you must be of good moral character.
The Naturalization Process
Presuming you are eligible, you can file Form N-400 for naturalization. Hiring a naturalization lawyer before you file is a good idea. They will help you with the required paperwork. Some applicants may also have to submit to a biometric screening.
An immigration officer will schedule an interview time. They will submit a report following the interview, and the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service will make a determination. If the USCIS favors your citizenship, you can schedule an appearance at a naturalization ceremony, take the Oath of Allegiance, and obtain a Certificate of Naturalization.
Contact a naturalization attorney to learn more.