Becoming a citizen of the United States, or naturalization, as it is officially known, can be confusing in the best of times. With the Trump administration eliminating programs designed to help immigrants gain citizenship, the path to citizenship can be even more complicated. However, there are steps you can take as an immigrant toward the path of becoming a United States citizen.
In order to apply for citizenship, you must hold a Permanent Resident, or Green Card, for at least five years. If you are the spouse of a United States citizen, you can file for citizenship after three years. You must be 18 at the time you file and you must be able to read, write and speak English. You must also have good moral character, which means you may not have been convicted of certain crimes. If you meet those criteria, you go through a naturalization process that includes filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization as well as:
- Submitting to a biometrics examination
- Complete an interview with the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS)
- Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States
It is important to know that you will be required to answer a ten-question quiz on United States history and civics during your interview.
DAPA and DACA Program
In 2016, the United States Supreme Court ended President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Permanent Residents, a program designed to offer a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrant parents who have children who are United States citizens. Then, in 2017, President Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program designed to help individuals who came to the United States as undocumented immigrants as children. Both programs were designed to help illegal immigrants gain citizenship without fear of deportation. Immigrants may not apply for DAPA or DACA status and anyone who currently holds such status cannot apply for renewal. However, there may still be methods for them to become citizens.
Citizenship Through Marriage
If you have held a green card for three years and have been living in marital union with a United States citizen during that time, you are able to apply for citizenship. You must also live in the jurisdiction for at least three months before filing the form and you must reside continuously in the United States from the date of application until you are naturalized. However, this only applies to spouses who come into the country legally. If you are considered an undocumented immigrant, you must leave the country and apply for citizenship through consulates. You can request a provisional waiver that will allow you to return to the United States after a successful interview with the consulate.
The law regarding asylum status in the United States is clear. You may apply for the status if you are present in the United States, whether legally or illegally, you are unable to return to your home country due to past persecution or fear of future persecution and that persecution is based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or a political opinion. It is important to note that the persecution must be done on the part of the government or by a group the government is unwilling to control.
Victims of Crime
The U Visa was created by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act in 2000 to protect non-citizens who had been victims of crimes and who aided law enforcement. The law is meant to encourage victims to cooperate with the police without fear of being deported. You must have suffered physical or mental abuse related to criminal activity and you must have information regarding that criminal activity. Some of the crimes that qualify include abduction, blackmail, domestic violence, felonious assault, rape, slave trade, trafficking and more. Family members may also be covered under the same U visa.