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The United States of America is famously known as a “melting pot” for its diversity and opportunity. Many people dream of the day they can obtain citizenship here, both for themselves and their families. However, the citizenship and naturalization process is extremely complex, and it often confuses those who aren’t familiar with it. If you’re thinking of becoming a lawful permanent resident in the United States, we recommend working with an experienced citizenship attorney.

At Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, our Phoenix immigration lawyers are highly skilled and experienced when it comes to immigration law. This is a complex area of law that many aspiring citizens have a difficult time navigating. Our citizenship attorneys are here to help you go through the process as smoothly as possible, with as favorable an outcome as possible. If you’re looking for attorneys you can trust, contact YMLG for a consultation. Call our Phoenix law office at 602-910-4040 or fill out our online intake form.

What Is Citizenship?

The Oxford Dictionary tells us that citizenship is “the position or status of being a citizen of a particular country.” However, citizenship is much more than a dictionary definition or legal status. Acquiring U.S. citizenship comes with certain legal rights and responsibilities. Citizens receive benefits and protections from their nation, and in return, they agree to follow the nation’s laws and pay taxes.

The benefits of citizenship vary from country to country. For immigrants, becoming a United States citizen often has many perks, such as the following.

  • Protection against deportation for you and your family members
  • Citizenship for your children
  • Having a passport that can take you to many places
  • Ability to apply for green cards for your relatives
  • Reunification of families
  • Right to vote in elections
  • Government job eligibility
  • Federal benefits
  • No more immigration paperwork
  • Running for office

What Is Naturalization?

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Naturalization is the process through which a person who was born outside the United States becomes a U.S. citizen. If successful, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will grant you lawful permanent residency (LPR) status. While this sounds the same as acquiring citizenship, there are subtle differences that make these two processes unique.

The biggest difference between the two lies in the naturalization process. When someone over 18 wants to apply for citizenship, they must do so through the naturalization process. However, acquisition of citizenship occurs when people are either born in the United States or in a U.S. territory, or they are born to parents who are United States citizens.

What Is Denaturalization?

When the United States government revokes the citizenship of a naturalized immigrant, this is called denaturalization. There are a few reasons why the government might revoke someone’s citizenship status. However, it is a very serious matter that should always be handled with care. Below, we list some of the reasons why the U.S. government might seek to revoke someone’s citizenship.

  • Procuring one’s naturalization illegally
  • Willfully misrepresenting facts in order to obtain naturalization
  • Becoming a member of a totalitarian party, a terrorist group, or the Communist Party within 5 years of one’s naturalization
  • Receiving a dishonorable discharge from the military
  • Refusing to comply with a court order to testify in a case

Who Is Eligible for Citizenship in the United States?

According to the USCIS, one must meet the following requirements in order to acquire U.S. citizenship.

  • Be at least 18 years of age when you begin the naturalization process and file your application.
  • Be a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for at least 5 years, or 3 years if you are married to a United States citizen.
  • Read, write, and speak English.
  • Have physical presence and continuous residence in the United States.
  • Have good moral character.
  • Show loyalty to the United States Constitution and its principles.
  • Show a basic understanding and knowledge of United States history and government.
  • Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

Obtaining citizenship is also possible through military service, although the requirements differ. To learn more about becoming a naturalized citizen by serving in the military, speak with an experienced citizenship lawyer.

Can I Become a U.S. Citizen if I Have a Criminal Record?

It is possible to be barred from obtaining U.S. citizenship if you have a criminal record. However, some crimes only impose a temporary bar, while others impose a permanent bar. The USCIS considers criminal records from both the United States and other countries. Below, we outline crimes that could result in either a temporary or permanent ban.

  • Prostitution
  • Solicitation
  • Possession of drugs
  • Certain minor forms of fraud
  • A combination of two or more crimes that resulted in a total prison sentence of five or more years
  • Crimes of moral turpitude
  • Most of your income comes from illegal gambling or from gambling crimes
  • Murder
  • Aggravated felonies
    • Rape
    • Sexual abuse
    • Drug or firearm trafficking
    • Running a prostitution business
    • Child pornography charges
    • Racketeering
    • Fraud for or above $10,000

What Is the U.S. Citizenship Process?

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Before you begin the citizenship process, we strongly recommend that you speak with an experienced immigration lawyer in Phoenix. Applying for U.S. citizenship and navigating immigration law can be both complicated and frustrating. This is especially true if you’ve never dealt with immigration issues before. Working with a citizenship lawyer can help you navigate the process much more smoothly, as well as avoid costly errors. Below, we briefly outline the steps of the naturalization process.

    1. Determine if you are already a United States citizen. Nationality law in the U.S. allows children to become citizens through their parents, so check to see if you received this benefit.
    2. Determine your eligibility. Not every person qualifies for U.S. citizenship, so we recommend working with citizenship lawyers to determine your eligibility.
    3. Prepare your citizenship application (Form N-400). Work with your attorney to gather all necessary documents ahead of time. They will also help you fill out the form correctly and submit it properly.
    4. Submit your Form N-400 and pay the associated fees. You can submit your form online through the USCIS website.
    5. Attend your biometrics appointment, if required. Not everyone needs to undergo biometrics, but USCIS will send you a notice with the date, time, and location of your appointment if you do.
    6. Attend and complete your USCIS interview. You will receive an appointment notice with the date, time, and location of your appointment. We recommend taking your appointment notice with you to the interview.
    7. Wait for a decision from USCIS. You will receive your decision in the mail, or you can access the decision via their website. Your application will either be granted, continued, or denied.
    8. If approved, you will receive a notice about taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. The notice will specify the date, time, and location of a naturalization ceremony that you must attend.
    9. Attend the naturalization ceremony. The ceremony involves multiple steps, including completing a Form N-445, turning in your green card, taking the Oath, and receiving your certificate of naturalization.
    10. Become a United States citizen.

Citizenship and Naturalization Fees

Currently, it costs $725 in filing fees and other services to obtain U.S. citizenship. Specifically, you will pay $640 for the N-400 citizenship application processing and $85 for your biometrics appointment. Keep in mind that these fees are nonrefundable, meaning that even if your application is rejected, you will not get this money back. However, some naturalization applicants can have their fees waived or reduced.

The best way to avoid rejection and a loss of your filing fees is to work with an experienced immigration attorney. We can help you fill out and submit the necessary forms in a timely manner, ensuring that you make no costly mistakes along the way.

Benefits of Hiring a Citizenship and Naturalization Lawyer

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If you’re already paying fees as a naturalization applicant, you may wonder if it’s worth it to hire a citizenship lawyer. Hiring citizenship attorneys actually has several advantages in both immigration court and in the application process. Below, we outline some of the biggest advantages of working with an immigration lawyer on your path to U.S. citizenship.

Obtaining your naturalization certificate can feel daunting, especially if you’ve never handled any immigration processes before. Working with an immigration lawyer can help you understand the ins and outs of the process, which will only help you in the long run. We will explain all your options and inform you of the steps necessary to meet the eligibility requirements.

We can also help you write a good moral character letter if USCIS requests one.

We know the naturalization process inside and out. Because of our in-depth knowledge of immigration law and procedures, we can help you avoid costly mistakes. Even one small mistake on citizenship applications can lead to a denial. Working with an immigration attorney can ensure that you avoid these mistakes and do everything the right way the first time.

Our years of experience will only serve to benefit you. We’ve handled countless immigration cases of many different types, including citizenship applications. When your lawful permanent residence status is on the line, it’s always better to choose experience.

Contact a Phoenix Citizenship and Naturalization Lawyer

At Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, our immigration practice aims to benefit those in communities that we ourselves come from. Immigrant families and communities need a law firm that they can trust to help them fight for their rights. Our citizenship lawyers are here to guide you through the process of obtaining citizenship, ensuring that you are informed every step of the way. If you need assistance with your citizenship documents or your citizenship interview, our naturalization lawyers are here for you. To schedule a consultation with us, please call our office at 602-910-4040 today.

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