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No Time Like the Present for Naturalization

30 May

Next year is a presidential election year, and electioneering has already begun to gain momentum in both parties.  There’s no doubt the ever-increasing political rhetoric has begun to motivate future voters at both ends of the political spectrum who may qualify to become U.S. citizens. 

As immigration attorneys, we see an uptick in clients seeking naturalization about every four years because they want to become part of the electorate and vote in the presidential election.  In each election cycle, there are future citizens who miss out on the opportunity to vote in the election because they started the naturalization application process too late and may not be approved before the deadline for voter registration in their states.

To avoid the rush next year, and to try to ward off the disappointment that comes with adjudication delays beyond the voter registration deadline, U.S. lawful permanent residents who may be eligible for naturalization to U.S. citizenship should take action now.

Who may qualify?  U.S. lawful permanent residents who have held such status for at least five years (three years if married to a U.S. citizen) may qualify for U.S. citizenship.  There are other residency and physical presence requirements as well, so candidates should contact their Foster immigration attorney for a consultation to review their eligibility.

If I am a permanent resident, am I required to become a U.S. citizen at some point?  No.  U.S. lawful permanent residents may retain their status for life so long as they do not engage in activity that could lead to their loss of permanent residency and removal from the United States.  However, certain benefits are available only to U.S. citizens.  For instance, only U.S. citizens may vote, carry a U.S. passport, and hold certain jobs with the U.S. government and defense contractors. Further, after becoming a U.S. citizen, it is no longer necessary to fear the potential loss, revocation, or abandonment of U.S. lawful permanent resident status.

What are the potential pitfalls in the naturalization process?  Some applicants fail to consider the residency and physical presence requirements before filing their applications, and they end up spending lots of money and time only to find out later that they did not meet basic eligibility requirements.  Other applicants fail to appreciate the potential impact of prior criminal offenses they view as “minor” or “too old” to worry about.  Still others start the process too late and are surprised by all the steps in the process.  Don’t let these common mishaps happen to you!  Contact your Foster immigration attorney for help.