- Representation at Interviews
- Waiver for the Medical Exam
- Waiver for the Language Exam
- Help with past criminal issues
- Request for reconsideration at a new interview
- Help with tax issues
- Determining eligibility due to extensive travel
If you have been a Legal Permanent Resident for at least five years, you may be eligible to become a citizen through naturalization. There are several requirements, including being 18 years old, having continuous residence in the U.S., and being able to pass a civics and history test in English. The most common reasons people get denied include having some tax issues, owing child support, having been arrested, or traveling too much. For example, being arrested even if you weren’t convicted could be a reason for denial! It’s very important that you consult with an immigration attorney BEFORE you apply to make sure you are a good candidate for naturalization.
If you are having problems learning English or studying for the civics portion of the citizenship exam because of physical or developmental disability or mental impairment, you may be eligible for a waiver so that you perform the exam in your native language or so that you do not have to do the exam at all.
If you have extensively traveled while you were a resident, you may have some issues when applying for naturalization. In order to be eligible for citizenship an applicant must meet both the continuous presence and the physical presence requirements. Under the Continuous Residency requirement an applicant must generally be a continuous resident for five years subsequent to LPR status. INA §316(a), 8 U.S.C. §1427(a)(1); 8 C.F.R. §316.5 Residence is defined as “the same as that aliens domicile, or principal actual dwelling place, without regard to the aliens intent.” For certain applicants only three years of continuous residency is required. This includes lawful permanent residents living with spouses in marital union. It also includes applicants who originally obtained their green cards through employment, investment, other diversity visa lottery, but then married a U.S. citizen with the three years being counted from the date of marriage. Divorce, legal separation, death, or expatriation of the U.S. citizen spouse breaks the continuity and the three year eligibility even if the applicant marries anther U.S. citizen. This is an important point for applicants who are facing marital strife at the end of the three year mark. According to INA§334(a), applicants also need to have resided in “a State or Service district having jurisdiction over the applicants actual place of residence” for at least three months before filling.
The main difficulty with this requirement is a “disruption to the continuity of residence” whereby an absence for a continuous period of between six months to one year will disrupt the “continuity of residence” unless applicants can establish otherwise. This can come up when applicants are stationed abroad or have ill family members’ outside of the country. Even if they were granted a re-entry permit to protect their lawful permanent residence, this is meaningless when applying for naturalization. To overcome this, it is the burden of the applicant to convince officers that their residence was not disrupted by their absence. This could also be a factor in the USCIS adjudication for their case if the applicant took several trips just under the 180 day period. For example, if they were abroad for 179 days, re-entered for a week, and then left for another 179 days. Early filling for the N-400 is an option, this can be filed 90 days before the date when they will have met their continuous residency requirement. Continuous absences longer than a year are generally fatal to the continuance of residence. This means applicants will have to wait four years and one day to file applications for naturalization.
In these cases, supporting documentation that USCIS particularly looks for includes:
- Evidence that the applicant did not terminate his or her employment in the U.S. – For example, contracts or a job letter confirming the applicant is still employed by the U.S. employer abroad, evidence that the applicant was granted a temporary leave of absence of specified duration, or documentation confirming research abroad for a U.S. institution was the reason of absence.
- Evidence that the applicant’s immediate family remained in the U.S. – For example, evidence confirming continued enrollment of children in U.S. schools, documentation of spouses continued employment in the U.S., immediate family members drivers licenses, utility bills, bank statements, etc.
- Evidence that the applicant retained full access to his or her U.S. abode – For example, house deed/title, lease agreement, utility bills, documentation confirming continued rent payments.
- Evidence that the applicant did not obtain employment abroad – For example, proof that the applicant continuous to work for a U.S. company.
In order to be eligible for citizenship applicants must also meet the Physical-Presence Requirements- Must be physically in the U.S. for at least one-half of the 5 years (or one-half of three years if spouse of USC). INA §316(a), 8 U.S.X §1427(a) This is equal to approximately 912 days (30 months) of physical presence in the U.S.(547 days/18 months for three year applicants) Unlike the continuous residence requirement, this rule is very objective. If an applicant has 911 days of physical presence in the U.S. they are ineligible, if they have 913 days then they are eligible (days of travel to and from the U.S. count as days of physical presence).
In these cases, if an applicant spent a substantial amount of time out of the U.S. at the beginning of the statutory period and has remained stateside for a long time since then it is possible to calculate when he or she will meet the physical presence requirement and wait to apply then.
For clients who are unable to recall the time they spent outside the U.S. and have lost their passports, it is possible to request a list of entries and exits from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) by making a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. This may take a matter of months, but if the request is correctly labeled “entries an exits” then they will be able to respond more quickly than if you requested an entire A file.