Citizenship is an important step in your immigration journey. It grants you important legal rights and makes your presence in the United States much more stable (naturalized citizens can be removed from the country, but the government must go through a lengthy process of denaturalization, instead of simple deportation proceedings). By getting citizenship, your right to live and work in the United States will be protected and your family’s future will be that much more certain. Learn more about the process of applying for citizenship.
There are many different ways a person can become eligible to apply for citizenship. First, you are eligible after holding permanent residency (a “green card”) for five years. If you are married to a United States citizen, this is reduced to three years, but you must remain married for the entire three year period and through the application process (if your marriage terminates prior to three years, you may still retain your green card if you are able to prove that the marriage was bona fide or that you qualify for a waiver). Military members and children of United States citizens can also apply for citizenship.
There are special humanitarian categories for victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, refugees, and other protected victims. These categories will usually allow a victim entry into the United States and help them apply for lawful permanent residence. Citizenship, however, is usually treated the same for all lawful permanent residence holders. There are some exceptions, so it is important to consult with an immigration attorney about the citizenship process if you hold a humanitarian visa or green card.
Applicants for citizenship are required to take two separate tests: one in English proficiency, and another in civics. The English test covers reading, writing, and speaking. The civics test covers various topics on the history and government of the United States. There are many free study resources, materials, and practice tests available on the internet. You can also pay for private tutoring and other services to help prepare you for the tests.
There are special exemptions from the testing requirements for older applicants who have lived in the United States for a long period of time. An applicant can be exempt from the English test if he or she is 50 years of age or older and has lived in the United States for 20 years. You can also be exempt from the English test if you are 55 or older and have lived in the U.S. for 15 years. These exemptions only apply to the English test – the applicant must still take the civics test (though it can be taken in the applicant’s native language). There are also some medical and disability exemptions to the testing requirements, so be sure to ask your lawyer about the possibility of an exemption if you think you qualify.
The experienced Cook County citizenship attorneys at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan have experience with all types of immigration cases. Contact us to schedule a consultation with an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible.