NATURALIZATION / CITIZENSHIP
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Applicants for naturalization must fulfill age, residence, physical presence, and good moral character requirements. Specifically, although naturalization applicants can depart the United States, they must have maintained residence in the United States continuously for five years since obtaining permanent resident status, and between filing for naturalization and obtaining citizenship. Persons with permanent resident status living in marital union with a U.S. citizen spouse are eligible for citizenship in three years, if they have been living in marital union with their U.S. citizen spouse for that period of time. Also, applicants must reside in the State or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") district of filing for at least three months prior to applying and must have been physically present in the United States at least half of the time in the five- or three-year period prior to filing.
Absences of over six months but less than one year during any of these periods break the continuity of residence unless the applicant can establish that residence was not abandoned. Absences of over one year break the period of required residence where the applicant does not obtain USCIS approval for the absence.
Applicants working for the U.S. government, international organizations of which the United States is a member, selected American research institutions, or American corporations engaged in U.S. foreign trade and commerce may be exempted from the continuous residence requirement, but not the physical presence requirement, if they establish that their absence is on behalf of the above U.S. entities before one year of continuous absence. U.S. government workers may also be exempted from the physical presence requirement. Applicants working for selected U.S. nonprofit organizations disseminating information promoting U.S. interests abroad for a continuous period of at least five years in lawful permanent resident status may be exempted from the continuous residence and physical presence requirements.
Spouses of U.S. citizens working for the U.S. government, international organizations of which the United States is a member, selected American research institutions, or American corporations engaged in U.S. foreign trade and commerce, or authorized to perform as a minister, priest, or missionary of a religious denomination with a bona fide U.S. organization, who are regularly stationed abroad, may be exempted from the continuous residence and physical presence requirements. Spouses of U.S. citizens who died on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces may be exempted from the continuous residence and physical presence requirements.
All applicants must demonstrate good moral character, including but not limited to all periods of time referred to above. Good moral character is determined by not only examination of the applicant's police and court records but also conduct; e.g., failure to pay child support may result in a finding that an applicant lacks good moral character. Anyone who has ever been arrested anywhere at any time should not apply for naturalization before consulting with an attorney.
More detailed, case-specific advice is available from Matthews Immigration Group by scheduling a consultation.