Cleveland Based Citizenship and Naturalization Attorney
Citizenship of the United States is the ultimate goal for many immigrants. U.S. citizenship provides many benefits including the right to vote. Other benefits of U.S. citizenship include access to certain jobs, the right to hold public office (although not the Presidency!), and less restrictive travel (a U.S. passport). We are experienced citizenship and naturalization attorneys and we want to help you.
Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) must make a motion to USCIS asking that agency to admit them as a citizen. This process is called naturalization. An applicant prepares and files the N-400 Application for Naturalization with USCIS. They get their fingerprints captured and a face scan taken at a biometrics interview. Then USCIS schedules them for an examination.
At the examination the USCIS officer reviews the application with the applicant. The officer asks the applicant many questions with a purpose of trying to obtain enough information about the applicant to ensure they are eligible to become a citizen. The officer also gives the applicant the required civics and English tests. If the applicant passes the tests and the examination, then USCIS issues a notice to attend an oath ceremony. Some USCIS offices swear the applicant in that day. Other USCIS offices send the person to an oath ceremony a few weeks later.
Each naturalization applicant must meet certain legal requirements. We will work with you and your facts (please tell us everything) to determine your eligibility. We routinely represent individuals in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and throughout the United States in naturalization cases. Our representation includes an immigration attorney attending the examination at USCIS with you. If your ultimate goal is U.S. citizenship, please contact our law firm Hammond Law Group, LLC.
Some green card holders seeking naturalization run into trouble because they do not understand the basic eligibility requirements. Every applicant’s past conduct comes under strict scrutiny. This is the last time USCIS will have your alien file and the last chance they’ll have to make sure you got all of your status the correct way and that the government did not miss anything in granting your status. Here are the basic naturalization requirements:
- Age and status. You must be at least 18 years old and have been a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR or “green card” holder) of the U.S. for at least five years. If you are a green card holder and you are living in marital union with your U.S. citizen spouse, you may be eligible to file after three years of becoming a lawful permanent resident.
- Residency. You must reside in the state or district of the service for at least three months prior to filing. For example, if you move from Cincinnati to Cleveland, you must live in the Cleveland area for at least 90 days prior to filing the application.
- Physical presence and continuous residence. Immediately prior to applying, an applicant must be physically present and continuously resided in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the previous five years. Or if applying under the marital union exception, the applicant must show he or she has been physically present and a continual resident for eighteen months out of the last thirty-six. Physical presence is different than continuous residence. Physical presence is feet on U.S. soil. Continuous residence is about where an applicant resides. If you were absent for more than six months but less than 12 months the government might feel you have abandoned your continuous residence. However, you still may be eligible for naturalization by proving to the government that your absence was temporary in nature. Applicants with at least one continuous year outside the U.S. are usually barred from naturalizing. There are some exemptions so call us.
- Good moral character. Applicants must demonstrate good moral character during the five years prior to your application, or three years if using the marital union exception or one year using a military service exception. Good moral character is not just having a clean criminal record but includes registering for Selective Service, paying child support and filing your tax returns (not just paying your taxes!).
- English language and civics tests are necessary to most applicants. There are exceptions depending on your length of time as a permanent resident and age. You may also receive an exemption if there is a medical condition keeping you from learning English or learning the core concepts of this country. These exemptions include not having to take the English test or taking the civics test in your native language. For more information please call us.
Do You Have a Criminal Record?
DO NOT TRY TO HIDE any criminal record. Expunged, sealed or dismissed cases are on the table for review by USCIS during a naturalization application process. USCIS checks all applicants. These background checks include fingerprinting, name checking and criminal records checks throughout the U.S. and in all the foreign places you’ve lived. Even expunged and sealed cases appear in law enforcement background checks.
As well, you must affirmatively disclose these and allow USCIS to make the determination on your eligibility. You are asking the government for a benefit. Therefore, it is your burden to prove you qualify. The government cannot make a proper decision on your case without all the information. As well, USCIS may consider your failure to disclose a criminal case to be false testimony. False testimony can lead USCIS to determine you do not possess the required good moral character.
Scarily, many ‘dismissals’ are actually considered convictions for immigration purposes. Filing an application to naturalize with a dismissed criminal case in your history can land you not just in removal proceedings but also in immigration jail. Please contact us first and let us help you. We’ll determine whether or not there is a conviction. If no conviction exists or the conviction is not going to hurt your case only then will we file the case.
Appealing a Naturalization Denial – Form N-336
Sometimes USCIS denies the naturalization application. The reasons vary but we usually see cases where fraud is revealed or a criminal case causes an ineligibility. Other common reasons for a denial include but are not limited to failure to pay child support, failure to pay and file taxes or not having the required amount of continuous residence. When a denial occurs, the applicant should immediately contact their immigration and naturalization lawyer and if they don’t have a lawyer, contact us. The appeal process for naturalization denials requires the timely filing of the Form N-336.
The filing of the Form N-336 forces USCIS to schedule a hearing. At this hearing, the appealing party can subpoena witnesses on their behalf and cross-examine witnesses they feel are necessary to win their case. If successful, USCIS grants the N-336 and the underlying N-400. If unsuccessful, the appealing party can then file an appeal in federal district court before a federal judge. Here the government becomes the opposing party, discovery happens and there is a trial where a judge can determine all the factual issues and rule on the case. This is a great power for the foreign national as federal judges are more experienced and adept at the determining legal issues and are not civil service/agency employees. Call us as our naturalization attorneys enjoy working on these types of cases. Many times USCIS is wrong and a Cleveland immigration lawyer can help you obtain your desired benefit.
Some foreign nationals become citizens by operation of law based on their facts. For example and pursuant to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, a child automatically becomes a citizen if he or she is under 18 years of age and becomes a lawful permanent resident and at least one of his parents is a U.S. citizen. Before the year 2000 there are many other laws regarding automatic citizenship. Your facts must match the law of the time to determine if you’ve acquired citizenship automatically.
Instead of filing an N-400 Application of Naturalization, an automatic citizen applicant files an N-600. If USCIS grants the N-600, then the government issues a certificate of citizenship. If you believe this applies to you, a friend or a relative, please contact us by calling 216-970-7102 or email us today to discuss representation.