Are you looking forward to becoming naturalized? Perhaps you may be a little nervous. Here is what you need to know before meeting with an attorney to start this journey to citizenship.
Becoming Naturalized | The Process
A Lawful Permanent Resident (“green card holder”) could remain a green card holder, or petition to become an American citizen. To become eligible to apply for citizenship, you must be at least 18 years old, you must have been a Lawful Permanent Resident for five years (or three if you are married to a U.S. citizen), without any significant absences (6 months or more). Additionally, you must satisfy the following:
- Evidence of good moral character.
- Establish knowledge of U.S. history and government.
- Demonstrate the ability to read and write basic English.
- Establish knowledge of and attachment to the U.S. Constitution.
When a client has an initial consultation, the attorney should gather as much information as possible in order to set forth realistic expectations. Before proceeding with a naturalization application, it is important to know if a client has been subject to any past legal problems, such as an arrest, taxation issues, or a period when the person fell out of status. An attorney can accompany the applicant to the naturalization interview, which is especially helpful if English is not a client’s strongest language. If a client cannot speak English at all, an attorney may be able to file a medical exception. If you have had a green card for 20 years and are at least 50 years old, or 15 years and are at least 55 years old, you will still have to pass the history and civics part of the citizenship test, but can take the test in your native language. A mental or physical disability might also be grounds for an exemption.
Becoming Naturalized | Can I Take the Test in My Native Language?
Recently, a client came to my office and asked me if they were able to take the citizenship test in their own language; in this case it was Spanish. There’s a very simple answer to that question: it all depends on two factors. Number one, how long you’ve had your green card. If you are 50 years old and have had your green card for twenty years, you would qualify from the English language exemption, if you are 55 years old and have had the green card for 15 years, you would also have qualified for the exemption.
There is a third way to qualify for an English language exemption: that is a medical exemption. If you have a disability, either physical or mental, that would prevent you from being able to take the civics and history test in the English language, there is a special form that you would fill out and have your doctor complete and certify that you are unable to take the test in English. This is discretionary; just because the doctor fills out the form and certifies does not mean that immigration will always accept it. However, there are these three ways of qualifying for the English language exemption and many times they are very successful.
If you are in need of an experienced immigration attorney, please call New Jersey naturalization attorney Susan Scheer to discuss your available options.