Columbus Al Dia September 2014

 

 The final step in the immigration process is to become a naturalized United States citizen. Thereare many benefits and protections that result from obtaining citizenship that people often overlook.The rights that you will obtain include the right to vote, the right to travel with a U.S. passport for anunlimited period of time, and to be eligible for federal grants and scholarships. Additionally, you willhave more protection from being deported than those who are in lawful permanent resident status.

 

To determine whether you are eligible to apply for citizenship you first look to the date that you becamea lawful permanent resident. You can find that date on your lawful permanent resident card. The general rule is that you must be in lawful permanent resident status for five years to be eligible to applyfor citizenship. However, there are a few exceptions. The most common exception is for an individualwho gained their LPR status through marriage to a U.S. citizen. Under those circumstances, you canapply for your citizenship after three years. Also, those who were in refugee status prior to becomingan LPR can use up to one year of refugee status towards the five year requirement. Finally, anotherexception applies for those who are serving in the military, navy, National Guard and other armedforces. Those individuals may qualify for citizenship immediately upon obtaining the proper certificationfrom their respective branch.

 

Now that you have a general idea of whether you are eligible, here are the other technicalrequirements: 1) physically present in the United States for at least half of the qualifying time period; 2)lived in the district or state where you are filing your application for at least three months; 3) have notcontinuously spent more than a year outside the United States; 4) have not made your primary homein another country; 5) at least 18 years old; 6) good moral character; 7) able to speak, read, and write inEnglish; 8) able to pass a test covering U.S. history and government; 9) willing to swear that you believein the principles of the U.S. Constitution and to be loyal to the United States.

 

Too many people are hesitant to apply for citizenship because they are intimidated by the applicationprocess, cannot afford the filing fees, have past criminal convictions, or they are not confident that theycan pass the test. All these issues are understandable, but you cannot afford to let them prevent youfrom obtaining equal opportunity and superior rights for you and your family. There is a fee waiveravailable for those who cannot afford to pay the filing fees and immigration has published a Spanishlanguage guide and list of possible questions to help you study. If you believe you qualify do nothesitate, act now, or you could regret it later. The entire process from filing the application to attendingthe interview has currently been approximately 3-4 months, so it’s not too late to bring in the New Yearas a United States citizen.

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