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Becoming A United States Citizen

Sep 14, 2008
For thousands of people, the idea of becoming a United States citizen is the goal of a lifetime. The dream about it, save money, make plans, and hope that someday they can come to and live and work in the greatest country in world.

There are several ways people can become a United States citizen. American citizenship is a right of birth for all people born in the United States. For people who were not born in the United States, there are other ways to become a citizen. For example, becoming a U.S. citizen is almost automatic if at least one of a person's parents was born in the U.S., and the person has lived here for the minimum period of time specified by federal law. Otherwise, people can become U.S. citizens through a process called naturalization.

The processes of immigration and naturalization are regulated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Some of the requirements for becoming a U.S. citizen are:

* Being at least 18 years of age
* Being a person of good moral character
* Living in the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) for at least five years
* Maintaining a "continuous" physical presence in the U.S. for that time period
* Having a basic knowledge of American history and government
* Demonstrating the ability to comprehend spoken and written English.

There are exceptions to the rule that all applicants for naturalization must speak and write English. The exceptions apply to a person who:

* Is 55 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 15 years; or
* Is 50 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 20 years; or
* Has a physical or mental impairment that makes him or her unable to fulfill these requirements.

Naturalization can be a long and arduous process, often taking years to complete. Generally, in order to apply for naturalization, a person applying for naturaliztion must be:

* At least 18 years of age and have been a permanent resident of the U.S. for at least 5 years; or
* At least 18 years of age and have been a permanent resident of the U.S. for at least 3 years; during which time you have been, and continue to be, married to and living in marriage with your husband or wife, who is a United Stated citizen; or
* Have served honorably served in the U.S. military.

In addition, some spouses of U.S. citizens and some members of the military may be able to file for naturalization sooner than the times listed above. To apply for naturalization, a person must file a Form N-400, "Application for Naturalization." Throughout the naturalization process, an applicant has the right to be represented by an attorney, who can fight for the application. This is important because an application for naturalization may be granted, denied or continued. If the petition for naturalization is denied, an applicant has the right to appeal.
About the Author
Philadelphia immigration and family law attorney Samuel Alboum has been representing individuals and families for nearly two decades. Sam Alboum concentrates his practice in immigration and family law matters. His office is located at 1315 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, (215) 546-3820. Email Attorney Sam Alboum (sam@samalboumlaw.com) or Visit Attorney Sam Alboum's website.
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