Applying for US naturalization is the logical path for most lawful permanent residents who want to stay in the United States in the long term. Is an immigration lawyer necessary to apply for US naturalization? Keep reading to find out.
What Is the Difference Between US Citizenship and Naturalization?
To become a US citizen, the first step is to determine whether to apply for US Naturalization or request a Certificate of Citizenship.
As provided by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), naturalization is the process by which a lawful permanent resident is granted US citizenship after meeting the eligibility criteria established by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
If the applicant is eligible for US citizenship obtained through his or her parents (either at birth or after birth), it is possible to request a Certificate of Citizenship without filing for naturalization.
Only applicants older than 18 years old can file for US naturalization while persons entitled to US citizenship can request a Certificate of Citizenship before the age of 18. After going through the process of naturalization, foreign-born applicants also receive a Certificate of Citizenship.
The steps involved in the application process for US naturalization are:
- Identifying whether you are eligible to apply for US citizenship
- Fill out Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization)
- Submitting Form N-440 with the supporting documentation to USCIS
- Paying the required fees
- Attending the biometrics appointment
- Demonstrating English proficiency and knowledge of US history, culture, and politics in the civics test
- Completing the interview
- Receiving USCIS decision on Form N-400
If the applicant’s petition is approved by USCIS, he or she will receive notice with the date and time scheduled to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. Once the successful applicant takes the Oath of Allegiance, he or she becomes a US citizen.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Apply for Naturalization? – A Realistic Overview
As it is plain to see, applying for US naturalization involves much more than filling out a form. While the petition is processed, USCIS will review the applicant’s past in several manners, such as:
- Asking questions regarding the applicant’s life during the interview
- Identifying whether the applicant has a criminal history
- Identifying whether the applicant has unpaid debts, overdue taxes, unpaid child support/alimony, and other similar issues
- Checking whether the applicant has spent an extensive amount of time outside the United States
Several factors may result in the request for further evidence or even denials. Depending on the applicant’s background, the petition may result in removal proceedings. The guidance of an expert immigration attorney is crucial to increase the applicant’s chances of success by:
- Determining whether he or she meets USCIS eligibility requirements
- Assisting the applicant to fill out USCIS forms and handling the required fees
- Organizing and handling the supporting documents
- Ensuring the applicant submits the document package as required by USCIS
- Anticipating potential issues and correcting them before they arise
- Preparing the applicant for the naturalization interview
- Ensure the applicant’s efficient preparation for the English and civics tests
- Providing valuable advice throughout the process
- Filing appeals and requesting supervisors to review unfair decisions by Immigration officials (if necessary)