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Understanding the Application Process for U.S. Naturalization

Each year, thousands of Lawful Permanent Residents apply to become naturalized U.S. citizens and receive the many benefits that come with citizenship. Some applicants have resided in the U.S. for a few years, while others have lived and worked in the U.S. for several decades. However, before filing the application paperwork, it is critical for all applicants to understand the specific requirements of the naturalization process. Advanced preparation can help ensure a successful application process and help Lawful Permanent Residents achieve their goal of U.S. citizenship.

First, the U.S. government has very specific rules dictating the application timeline for permanent residents. A Lawful Permanent Resident residing continuously in the U.S. after being admitted as a permanent resident for at least 5 years (3 years if the permanent resident status was obtained through marriage to a U.S. citizen spouse) may apply for naturalization. The applicant must show physical presence in the U.S. for at least half of the previous five years before the application is filed. In general, any absences from the U.S. of more than six continuous months breaks the requirement of continuous residence, although some exceptions apply.

Additionally, permanent residents applying for U.S. citizenship must also demonstrate the ability to read, write and speak the English language with ordinary usage. The testing process does not require strong English language proficiency, simply the ability to read and write a few sentences and converse in plain English during the naturalization interview. Applicants must also pass a civics test that covers basic U.S. history, laws and government branches. All applicants have two opportunities to take the English and civics tests per application. If applicants fail any portion of the test during the first interview, they will be retested on the portion of the test that was failed between 60 and 90 days from the date of the first interview.

Finally, permanent residents applying for naturalization to become U.S. citizens must also be evaluated for their moral character. The applicant must demonstrate that he or she has been and still is a person of good moral character, defends the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and is well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States. While the law allows an examination of an applicant's character at any time during his or her life, the application primarily focuses on the five years immediately prior to the application date. It is important to remember that good moral character does not mean moral excellence, and is not destroyed by a single lapse in judgment.

The application process for lawful permanent residents pursuing U.S. citizenship can be complex and challenging, particularly if there are complications with paperwork and legal filings. To ensure a smooth and successful naturalization process, it is critical to have experienced and skilled immigration attorneys on your side. Christiansen Law Firm specializes in assisting permanent residents achieve their goal of U.S. citizenship through reliable, affordable and quality legal services. Christiansen Law Firm's team of immigration law attorneys can help individuals or families navigate the citizenship process and provide solutions for a wide range of immigration issues. Contact Christiansen Law Firm today for more information or to request a free consultation with their attorneys in Houston or San Antonio.

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