The N-400 Form is the form that allows permanent residents or US nationals to become naturalized citizens of the United States, with all the rights, privileges, and duties that come with being a citizen. While the specific requirements can vary depending on what category of applicant you are, the general requirements are the same; continuous residence, physical presence, and good moral character. English and civics knowledge are also requirements, but depending on age and health the requirement can be waived. Below I will explain what these requirements are and what is required to meet the requirement depending on what basis you are filing an N-400. To get an idea of your specific eligibility requirements for your case or whether there is anything that can be done if you don’t meet these requirements, you should consult with an N-400 lawyer.
Continuous residence means you have not left the United States for a significant amount of time, generally 6 months. If you have left the country for more than 6 months but less than one year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services generally considers your residence to have been broken, but there could be circumstances that, if proven to UCIS’ satisfaction, could forgive your absence. If you are gone for more than 1 year but less than 2 years and have a reentry permit that allows you to reenter the country as a permanent resident, then the last 364 days you were out of the country can count towards your continuous residence. Otherwise, if a seven-month or longer trip breaks your residence, you will need to remain in the United States for an additional period to establish continuous residence. Generally, you will need 5 years of continuous residence, but there are circumstances where it can be 3 years or fewer. Only 3 years of continuous residence are required to qualify for the N-400. A member of the Armed Forces who has served for at least 1 year does not require any period of continuous residence and only needs to be a permanent resident on the day of the naturalization interview with USCIS to qualify. A widow or widower of a US armed service member who died during a period of honorable service also only needs to be a permanent resident on the day of the interview and does not need any continuous presence. For more information on the continuous residence requirement and whether you qualify in your specific case, you should speak with an N-400 lawyer.
Physical presence means the amount of time you live inside the United States. It does not need to be continual, as long as you still meet the requirement for continuous presence. For example, someone who has been a permanent resident for the past five years with no special circumstances needs to have 30 months of physical presence in order to file for citizenship. That’s 2 ½ years. So you need to add up all the time you have spent outside the country, including weekend trips to Canada or Mexico, and make sure that in the last 5 years of your residence in the United States that you have been physically inside the country for 30 months, without any trips exceeding 6 months. For those currently married to a US citizen who has been a US citizen for the last 3 years and has been married for 3 years, they need to be physically present for 18 months, or a year and a half. For active-duty military with one year of service, there is no physical presence requirement. To find out what kind of physical presence you need to file for naturalization, or calculate if you meet the physical presence requirement, you should speak with an N-400 lawyer.
Good Moral Character
Good moral character is a bit more difficult to define, as USCIS intentionally keeps it vague. Generally, it concerns any criminal record that you might have. USCIS wants to know every crime you may have committed, whether you were convicted or not or arrested or not. If you shoplifted one time, whether you were arrested or not, USCIS wants you to inform them, and lying about your record or anything in the naturalization interview could be grounds for denying your application. USCIS has a lot of discretion when it comes to deciding what crimes bar someone from naturalizing. What they definitely will not accept is an aggravated felony, which is a crime of violence that is also a federal felony. The standard of what counts as a felony is federal law, so if a state has a misdemeanor charge that lines up with a federal felony that could be an aggravated felony, while a state having a felony that lines up with a federal misdemeanor that might not be an aggravated felony. Some other reasons why USCIS might not think you are of good moral character is if you committed any crime against the government that involves fraud, violating any controlled substance act, polygamy, or failing to pay court-ordered child support. In many cases, even if you have a record of some kind, it is still possible to become naturalized. For a personalized examination of your naturalization case, including whether there are any bars due to a failure to meet USCIS’ standard for good moral character, you should consult with an N-400 lawyer.
Naturalization is the goal that many immigrants come to the US to achieve. In order to ensure that your naturalization case goes as smoothly as possible, or to identify any potential obstacles, be sure to contact us. For more information, click this link.