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Becoming a naturalized American

For week of November 9, 2020

Becoming a Naturalized American, a citizen!

In an earlier blog,  Only citizens can vote in the November 3, 2020 US elections, I said if you are an immigrant in the US, you can only vote if you are a naturalized citizen. To be naturalized means you are now an American citizen, in short an American!

This Washington Post article https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/number-of-people-who-became-us-citizens-reached-five-year-high-in-fiscal-2018/2019/06/03/87792204-8608-11e9-a491-25df61c78dc4_story.html said that over 756,000 persons naturalized in 2018

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services site, at http://www.uscis.gov/ indicates that in 2019 834,000 persons naturalized. 

The trend is suggesting that over the years more persons are recognizing the benefits of naturalization. But what are these benefits? And while we are talking, what are the steps to becoming a citizen? Will criminal law issues affect citizenship? There is a lot to consider.

Benefits of citizenship

Let’s talk about the benefits first. One main benefit of being a citizen is that you can vote in every American election, at municipal, state and national levels. Another benefit is that you qualify for job opportunities that only citizens can get. These include in the postal service, law enforcement and the federal government. 

When you are a citizen you can also petition for your parents and your adult married sons and daughters to come from abroad.

And on the lighter side, when you are entering the country from various airports, you join the line for American citizens, which is invariably shorter.

Happiness is a snow angel

Steps to becoming a citizen

Citizenship is like a banana tree, plant it and wait for growth

The American eagle is known for its ability to soar and the research shows that immigrants who choose to make America their home tend to soar in their endeavors towards contributing to nation building.

To become a citizen, the eligibility time frame is between 3 and 5 years dependent on how you arrived in the USA.

You must have paid up your taxes or have an arrangement with the IRS, ww.irs.gov

Any criminal law issues must have been sorted out and in fact, please get legal advice before you complete an application if you had a criminal case. That is the short version!

Read the form carefully before completing it 

Naturalization occurs under two MAIN bands: a) marriage for three years to a United States Citizen or b) being a Legal Permanent Resident for 5 years. A person can also seek U.S. citizenship based on service in the U.S military. Please check very carefully as you complete the forms.

The most important thing about every form that you will complete is that you read it very carefully! If you are unsure, seek advice. If you need clarification get it. Plan to spend a good amount of time filling out the forms correctly. Get all the supporting documents you will need and have them in one place. If you do that it reduces the stress of having to leave the application incomplete to find documents or information.

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork

Examples of documents that you will need include your Legal Permanent Card (Green Card), your marriage certificates (inf necessary), any divorce certificates, birth certificates for any children, social security card for all family members. If you had any contact with the criminal law system you need to have the documents about it. If selective service is something that you need to deal with, ensure that it is done as soon as possible. The idea is that you put everything in place so that there is nothing to stop the application process from being completed and that when you submit the application, there is nothing to stop the naturalization process from being continuing. Providing all that is required the first time round, helps to ensure that your application will not be sent back for you to send additional paperwork.

Do I have to answer this specific question?

Every question that is applicable to you must be completed. Innocent mistakes on the form can work against you, so you have to be very careful. Check out resources such as uscis.gov or your local community organizations for help if in doubt. If  a question clearly does not apply to you, you can write Not Applicable in the space, such as the questions that ask about children, if you have no children. There are some questions where dependent on your answer before the form will take you to the next question that you should complete.

How do you send your documents?

Have all the documents necessary to send with your application

Remember to only send COPIES of the required documents.

These are the most common documents needed dependent on your situation:

Both sides of the legal permanent resident card,  U.S. spouse passport or birth certificate or certificate of naturalization, birth certificate, marriage certificate, proof of the dissolution of any prior marriages, IRS Tax return transcripts for the last three years,  children’s birth certificates, documents showing proof of the marriage such as joint tax returns, bank account statements, rent documents, mortgage documents, lease documents, insurance coverage documents, motor vehicle related documents, selective services documents (for males), completed request for certification of military or naval service.

Travel outside the US

Ensure that any trip taken outside the U.S are accounted for by you.

The general rule of thumb is that you must be in the country more than you have been outside the country. Trips of six months or longer require an explanation. Make sure you consult resources for assistance with this aspect.

Paying your fees

Send only a money order or check for the fees with the completed application and supporting documents. CASH IS NOT ACCEPTED. The fee must be for the EXACT AMOUNT. The money order or check must be made out to the DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY.

Membership in Organizations

The form asks about being a member of ANY ORGANIZATION anywhere in the world. Membership in youth groups, community groups and so on are to be included.

Make and Keep a copy of all documents you are sending

Make a copy of the entire package. Send the completed package by certified mail so that you can track its receipt by USCIS. Even the check or money order should be copied and you should also keep the receipt portion.

Specific Sections of the Application 

Remember, if you are divorced, that is what you should put on the application form. The form asks about single, never married, divorced etc.

If you have one, don’t forget to write your A number on the application form

Don’t forget that you can apply three months before the three year or five-year period.

Don’t vote or sign up to vote before you become a citizen. Voting is a right for citizens only.

Don’t forget the information on where you have lived for the past five years. So look up zip codes and names of cities.

The information on how long you lived at each place can be approximates, eg. From March 2000 to March 2005.

If you need more space for a section of the application form, use the addendum at the end of the form. Use a blank piece of paper to put any additional information.

For the biographic information section, make sure the information is correct.

Remember to put the names of ALL FORMER SPOUSES if relevant.

Remember to the names of ALL CHILDREN, alive or dead, living with you or not, present in the U.S. or not.

Don’t forget to sign! Send the correct fees too!

As soon as you submit your application, start studying for the CIVICS test and preparing for your

interview with the immigration officer.

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