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Naturalization is the process of becoming a United States citizen. While some people automatically gain United States citizenship through birth, others need to go through various steps to achieve this goal. Citizenship offers many benefits, and learning more about the naturalization process makes sense if you plan to stay in the country for the foreseeable future. Although online research can help those pursuing naturalization, a consultation with an immigration lawyer in Texas can provide more personalized guidance. 

What are the Benefits of US Citizenship?

As a green card holder, you might be wondering about the benefits of naturalization. What makes US citizenship better than being a permanent resident? There are a few things to consider:

  • Eligibility for federal benefits programs
  • New job opportunities within federal agencies
  • Federal college assistance
  • No more green card renewals
  • You can stay in the United States even if you are convicted of a serious crime
  • You can leave the country for as long as you like before returning
  • You can vote in US elections
  • You can run for federal political office

Even if you never plan to vote or run for office, there are many other benefits of citizenship to consider. 

You Might Already Be a US Citizen

Although it might seem unthinkable, you might already be a US citizen without realizing it. If you were born in the United States, you are likely a citizen by default. You might also be a US citizen if you were born to parents who are US citizens – even if you were born in a different country. Some children automatically become citizens if their parents also become citizens through the naturalization process. Finally, children adopted by US citizens generally gain citizenship. An immigration lawyer in Texas can help you determine whether you are already a US citizen. If you are indeed a citizen, there is no need to go through the naturalization process. 

Understand the Requirements for US Naturalization

The next step is to review the eligibility requirements for naturalization. You can find a detailed description of these requirements on Form N-400, “Application for Naturalization.” While there are various pathways toward citizenship, all applicants must meet a few general requirements. They must be at least 18 years of age, they must have an understanding of English, and they must have “good moral character.” The last requirement refers mostly to your criminal record. 

  • General Eligibility Requirements: Aside from age, good moral character, and English comprehension, applicants must have lived in the United States for at least five years. You cannot leave the USA for extended periods during these five years. You must also demonstrate support for the US Constitution and swear an Oath of Allegiance to the United States. 
  • Requirements for Spouses of US Citizens: If you are seeking citizenship based on your marriage to a US citizen, you must have been married for at least three years. Your spouse must hold citizenship for at least three years before you can apply. Finally, you must be a lawful permanent resident for at least three years before applying. 
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Requirements: Certain spouses and children of US citizens can gain citizenship without three years of marriage. VAWA requirements state that the US citizen in question must have committed domestic violence against the applicant. While VAWA requirements are complex, you might need less evidence for this pathway to citizenship. 
  • Requirements for Spouses of US Citizens Employed Outside the USA: If you’re married to a US citizen working outside of the United States, you may also qualify for citizenship. You must first gain lawful permanent resident status, and you must intend to live in the United States after your spouse’s foreign work ends. 
  • Requirements for Military Service Members: The United States rewards some service members with US citizenship. While this eligibility is extended to all former and current military personnel, there are fewer requirements if you served during a designated period of hostilities. If you choose this pathway to citizenship, there are generally no residence requirements. If you leave the military, a dishonorable discharge could make you ineligible. 

What Happens Next?

If you determine that you are eligible to become a US citizen, you can proceed by filling out Form N–400. Note that you will need to sign the form, which includes an Oath of Allegiance. This oath includes a promise to defend the Constitution and the United States against all enemies. You will also promise to bear arms on behalf of the United States in periods of war, which means you may be forced to fight in a major conflict against your will. This is also known as a “draft,” and it is an especially important consideration for younger individuals. 

When you finish Form N-400, you will need to gather various supporting documents. The nature of these documents depends entirely on the nature of your application and the specific pathway to citizenship you have chosen. For example, military service members may need to attach records proving their involvement in a particular branch of the armed forces. On the other hand, someone pursuing citizenship through marriage may need to attach their marriage certificate. Finally, you’ll need to attach two passport photos if you are currently out of the country. 

The application also includes in-person medical exams and USCIS interviews. Your immigration lawyer can help you understand what to expect during these interviews. If your application is denied, your lawyer can also help you respond accordingly. 

Contact The Presti Law Firm, PLLC

If you are serious about your naturalization goals, get in touch with the Presti Law Firm, PLLC, today. Over the years, we have helped numerous people in Texas gain citizenship. Remember, becoming a US citizen offers many benefits. Although naturalization may seem like a daunting process, these benefits are well worth the effort. It may be easier than you realize to achieve your immigration goals. Book a consultation today with our experienced Texas immigration lawyers to discuss your unique goals and priorities.