Naturalization refers to the process of becoming a U.S. citizen when you are currently a lawful permanent resident. If you were born in the U.S., you are of course automatically a U.S. citizen. For virtually everyone else, you first must become a lawful permanent resident (or green card holder) before you become a citizen. The naturalization process involves filing a form (the N-400) and supporting documentation to become a citizen, WHEN YOU ARE ELIGIBLE TO BECOME A CITIZEN. After the application is reviewed and fingerprints are taken (to check for any criminal history), an interview will be set with a USCIS officer. Of course, there are more steps, and we will detail those in the coming weeks.
Why Should I Hire an Immigration Lawyer for the Naturalization/Citizenship Process?
Early in my immigration law career, I viewed naturalization as a process that many people could do on their own, and sometimes I would even push them to do the process on their own, since I did not want a person paying me for something I believed they could do on their own. After attending countless naturalization interviews over the years, I have changed my view on this for the following reasons:
- The Stakes are High. If you are in fact not eligible for naturalization due to criminal conduct, misrepresentations in earlier applications (such as your permanent resident application), or for other reason, not only will your naturalization application be denied, but you could risk being placed in immigration court and losing your green card.
- Eligibility is more complicated than you might think. The physical presence requirements, abandonment of a green card based on prolonged absences from the U.S. (this can even be an issue with an reentry permit), prior marriages, and taxes are just some of the areas that can create problems for naturalization eligibility.
- The N-400 form is more complicated than you might think. There are several questions on the form that are simply not that clear. If you answer a question incorrectly, you always run a risk that an immigration officer could find you willfully made a false statement or tried to conceal something. While most officers are reasonable when you correct your form and explain the basis for the mistake, the climate may change as the Trump administration beings to implement changes to USCIS.
- USCIS’ own practice and procedure constantly changes, and they do not always do a good job keeping the public informed. Form instructions and other instructions posted by USCIS are often contradictory or incomplete. It is our job, as immigration experts, to keep on top of all changes so that the applications we file are complete.
For all of the reasons, I no longer try to convince people to do their naturalization applications on their own, even in the “cleanest” of cases. And if you have any eligibility concerns, criminality history, prolonged absences from the United States, or other concerns, I always recommend that you consult with and likely hire an immigration attorney to help with the naturalization and citizenship process.
Working with Shaftel Law through Naturalization
When you hire SHAFTEL LAW for the Naturalization and Citizenship process, we represent you from the beginning of the process to the finish line. We prepare the required forms and gather the necessary documentation, but even more importantly, we schedule a final meeting one week before the naturalization interview to review your application and prepare you for the interview. Finally, we of course attend the interview with you to make sure that the officer understands any legal/eligibility issues and to address any issues that could arise during the course of the interview. As with all clients of our firm, you always have access TO A LAWYER, once you hire us, so that you can have all of your questions and concerns quickly addressed during the process.