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Citizenship

Whether a person may obtain U.S. citizenship depends on many variables, including the person’s moral character (arrests, whether taxes have been paid, other discretionary factors), how s/he obtained their permanent residency, any actions taken that have made the person deportable or indicate an abandonment of permanent residency, and their familial relationship to other U.S. citizens.

The U.S. citizenship laws can be very complicated, given how often citizenship laws have changed over the past 100 years.  Whether a person is a citizen or is eligible for citizenship or will be denied citizenship and could be subject to deportation depends on which law(s) apply based on what years certain actions occurred.  With that said, the information provided on this page is mere informational and should not be relied on as  legal advice or any actions taken in reliance on this information.   To determine your eligibility and what factors may affect your chances of becoming a U.S. citizen, contact us for a Case Evaluation appointment with the Attorney.

Heather has a 100% approval rate on U.S. citizenship cases. Citizenship can be very complicated. The below stories show how important it is to have an attorney present with you, if you can afford it, even in what you may believe is a simple case based on the law to make sure that your case is not denied in error or worse, that you become subject to deportation.

Articles & More Information

CIS announces citizenship policy for conditional green card holders: Conditional lawful permanent resident who has filed a waiver based on extreme cruelty (Violence Against Women Act) to release the condition on his/her green card may qualify to apply for U.S. citizenship after only 3 years in lawful permanent residency status, even though separated or divorced from his/her spouse! Contact us for more information, to see if this could apply to you ! 

Recent Victory! At the local CIS level, Heather was recently successful in overturning a denial issued by CIS in a case involving a permanent resident who had her condition removed on her green card due to the abuse she suffered in her marriage and who had applied for U.S. citizenship after 3 years in lawful permanent residency status. Our client was already divorced from her abuser at the time of application.

Because the local CIS office had never seen a case like this based on the 2005 memo expanding the 3 year eligibility for naturalization applications to those who had approved conditional green card waivers based on abuse, the officer mistakenly misapplied old CIS policy and denied the case. Heather filed a motion to reopen and an appeal and within a short time, our client’s case was re-opened and she was granted naturalization.Our client was sworn in as a U.S. citizen this month.

Making a “False Claim” – Claiming to be a U.S. citizen

Falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen is grounds for denial of any petition for naturalization (citizenship).  There is no current waiver under the law for a knowingly made false claim. The problem arises whether the person claiming to be a U.S. citizen knew that s/he was making a false claim.  Congress created one way to determine this, when it passed the Child Citizenship Protection Act in 2001. Now,

Recent Victory! Heather was recently successful in convincing CIS that her client did not make a knowingly false claim of being a U.S. citizen after he applied for a U.S. passport and was denied.  Our client was brought to the U.S. when he was a pre-teen and his father and his grandmother were naturalized citizens. Under the citizenship law that covered his case, if he could prove that his father was living in the U.S. 10 years prior to his son’s birth abroad, 5 of which after the age of 14, then the son (our client) was already a U.S. citizen through “transmission” (i.e., his father transmitted or passed his U.S. citizenship to his son). The problem in his case was one of proof. His father left the U.S. in the 1960s for ten years, when he was in his early 20′s, and he could not find enough records for CIS or the state department’s passport agency to conclude that his father was physically living in the U.S. during the years that he could have transmitted U.S. citizenship. Even the census couldn’t help our client.

Our client was forced to apply for naturalization based on the non-existence of these very old records.  Heather, alongside our client, prepared our client and helped him prepare available documentation and went with him to the CIS interview. She argued in a brief and orally in front of the officer that our client never made a knowingly false claim, but was merely following the instructions on the state department’s website for passport application. The officer agreed with Heather and recommended our client for naturalization. Our client was sworn in as a U.S. citizen this month.

Continuous Presence Issues for Approved Legal Permanent Residents:

Generally, spouse of U.S. citizens are eligible to apply for naturalization (citizenship) after 3 years have passed in the status of a permanent resident, as long as the couple are still living together as husband and wife.   The starting date for counting the 3 years is the date that permanent residency is first approved at the adjustment of status interview, i.e., when the I-551 stamp, temporary evidence of permanent residency, is imprinted in red ink in the noncitizen’s passport at the local district CIS office. If the noncitizen wants an early start on citizenship, s/he is eligible to file for citizenship three months prior to this 3 year eligibility period.

Understandably, a noncitizen may wish to travel abroad immediately after obtaining their green card stamp, especially after having been deterred from traveling for so long due to the bar to re-entry due to unlawful presence in many cases.   However, to preserve the 3-year filing eligibility, a noncitizen must follow these mandates, or else face the prospect of delaying eligibility to become a U.S. citizen:

A noncitizen must:

  1. Remain a resident continuously for 3 years after grant of permanent residency status.  You must prove that you did not disrupt the continuity of your residence in the U.S. during an extended absences.
  2. Not be absent from the U.S. for a continuous period of more than one year during the three-year period in legal permanent residency status.  Absence for more than six months but less than one year establishes a presumption against compliance with the continuous residency requirement.  If you wish to work abroad in such a case, you will need to file a special application to preserve residency status for naturalization tolling within the first year of legal permanent residence and before you have been absent from the United States for a continuous period of one year;
  3. Be physically present in the U.S. for at least one-half of the 3 year period (even if can be argued that trips abroad do not break continuous nature of permanent residency in the U.S., this requirement of physical presence is mandatory);
  4. By the time that you file for naturalization, have resided in the state where you plan to file the naturalization application for at least three months prior to filing your naturalization application; and
  5. Be a person of good moral character for the requisite three years in legal permanent residency status; and
  6. Continue to reside continuously within the U.S. from the date the application is filed up to the time of admission to citizenship (currently, this process is taking about 1 year at the California Service Center to complete, from time of filing).

If you somehow end up in removal proceedings or have an outstanding order of deportation levied against you, you are not eligible to file for citizenship during such time.

If you are planning an extended trip abroad, you may be delaying your eligibility for citizenship. Contact us before you make any extended plans for travel to discuss the particular needs of your case.

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This notice only addresses the main naturalization application and citizenship eligibility issues.  You must also be aware that you can lose your permanent residency status if you stay out of the U.S. for extended periods of time and do not file a special application to preserve your residency, even more crucial than preserving your eligibility to file for citizenship.

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* Approval rates listed as of 6/2011 (99% approval rate on citizenship cases). Note, past approval rate does not guarantee that your petition will be approved. Always consult with a licensed, competent attorney about the chances of approval in your matter. No attorney can guarantee any outcome in a matter.

Useful Links:

Guide to Verifying Dual Citizenship

Citizenship Guidelines under the Violence Against Women Act

Children born abroad (outside the U.S.) to U.S. citizens

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