Dispelling Myths About Citizenship
July 9, 2021
The United States issues approximately 1.1 million green cards each year, granting foreign nationals lawful permanent residency (LPR) status. The Biden administration has proposed adding 375,000 more to the total by expanding eligibility under employment-based categories and the Diversity Visa program, but the bill is stalled in Congress.
Additionally, about 860,000 green card holders apply for citizenship in the U.S each year. From 2014 to 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved an average of 739,980 naturalization applications annually.
If you’re here as a foreign national hoping to become a citizen, the route to achieving that status is through obtaining a green card, and there are different paths to accomplish that.
If you’re in the Miami, Florida area or any surrounding community, contact me at Gurian Group, P.A. I have more than 15 years of experience in helping families and individuals navigate the immigration process to achieve their dream of U.S. citizenship. Let me help you find your path as well.
Common Citizenship Myths
People arrive on U.S. shores not with only hopes and dreams but also misconceptions and misunderstandings about what it takes to become a citizen. Let me help dispel some of these myths and clarify matters for you.
Myth #1: Citizenship is no different
than lawful permanent residency
Wrong. If you have a green card, you can work in the United States and even sponsor certain relatives for green cards or visas. Though you are protected by U.S. laws, you can still be deported. Once you gain citizenship — which takes three to five years after obtaining a green card — you obtain the full rights of being a citizen. You can no longer be deported, you can vote in elections, you can obtain a U.S. passport, and travel to Mexico and Canada with just an enhanced driver’s license.
Myth #2: Being married to a U.S. citizen
automatically makes you a U.S. citizen
Not quite, though being married to a U.S. citizen speeds up the process. You still must obtain a green card, but being married means you can apply for citizenship after three years under LPR status instead of waiting for five years if you’re not married to an American citizen.
Myth #3: “Continuous residence” and
“physical presence” is the same thing
These two terms can be confusing. The naturalization process places both continuous residence and physical presence requirements on individuals applying for citizenship. You can have continuous residence (meaning you live at a specific place in the U.S., in a house or apartment), but if you travel abroad, the physical presence requirement can be interrupted. If you’re applying for naturalization with a green card and you’re not married to a U.S. citizen, you must be physically present on U.S. soil for at least 30 months out of the five-year qualifying period. If you’re married to a U.S. citizen, the requirement is at least 18 months during the three-year qualifying period.
Myth #4: If your citizenship application
is denied, there is nothing you can do
Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization) is a complicated document to complete. It’s not uncommon for errors on the form to lead to a denial by USCIS. Once you receive notice of your denial, you have 30 days to appeal (33 days if the notice is received by mail) by using Form N-336 (Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings). If your attorney applied for you, then they must file Form N-366.
You can also reapply using Form N-400 if circumstances have changed since you first applied. For instance, if you failed the good moral character test in the application process because of a minor crime committed within the five years previous to filing, you can reapply if the five years have now lapsed. Also, if you failed the continuous presence and physical presence requirements when first applying but now meet those requirements, you can reapply.
Myth #5: If my children are citizens
of the U.S. I won’t get deported
If you have children on U.S. soil, they automatically become U.S. citizens, but your status remains exactly as it was before you had children. When your children reach legal age, they can sponsor you for a green card, but in the interim, you must deal with immigration issues on your own. If you’re undocumented, you can definitely face deportation. Even if you have a green card, you can be deported. The only guarantee against deportation is obtaining full citizenship.
Myth #6: Having a criminal conviction
disqualifies me from citizenship
I touched on this briefly in the section on application denial, but yes, a criminal conviction can pose either a barrier or a complete block to your obtaining citizenship, depending on the type and date of the crime. Certain crimes — murder and aggravated felonies — are permanent blocks to obtaining citizenship.
Minor crimes start your residency clock ticking all over again. If you’re convicted of a minor crime, you must wait five years from that date to apply for naturalization (or three if you’re married to a U.S. citizen). Even after that waiting period, USCIS can still decide that you don’t pass the good moral character test, though they generally only search records from the five or three years required for your application.
Let a Skilled Immigration
Applying for a green card or naturalization can pose all kinds of challenges and potential pitfalls if you try to go it alone. In most cases, the supporting documents required with the application can be voluminous, confusing, and sometimes difficult to complete. You should always seek the help of an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney.
For 15 years, I have helped countless others like you successfully obtain LPR status and ultimately citizenship. If you’re in or around the greater Miami area, contact me at the Gurian Group, P.A. I will work tirelessly on your behalf to help you achieve your immigration dreams here on U.S. soil.