U.S. Citizenship

Naturalization

Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) of the United States who have held such status for five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen) are eligible to submit naturalization applications to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Citizenship applicants must prove that they are persons of "good moral character," that they are not disqualified due to certain criminal convictions, that they have an understanding of U.S. history and the English language, and that they have met certain physical presence and residency requirements in order to obtain citizenship.

*Note: Some applicants for citizenship may be exempt from the English/civics requirements if they are disabled, and/or meet certain age and residency requirements.

Spouses of U.S. citizens who are “regularly stationed abroad” in certain employment categories may be eligible for expedited naturalization under Section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), making them exempt from the standard continuous residence and physical presence requirements. Permanent residents who are moving abroad to accompany their U.S. citizen spouse on an employment contract should be screened for eligibility for this important benefit.

How we help: Our immigration attorneys specialize in assessing eligibility for naturalization and handling complex naturalization cases involving criminal convictions and/or other issues which may constitute a basis for denying citizenship.

Automatic Derivative Citizenship

Certain individuals do not need to apply for naturalization because they are U.S. citizens by operation of law.

One way that a person born outside of the United States can be a citizen is through “acquisition” of citizenship at birth because of the citizenship status of either one or both parents. Generally, in order to acquire U.S. citizenship at birth, the U.S. citizen parent(s) must have resided or had physical presence in the U.S. prior to the child’s birth for certain periods of time. The law that governs is the one in effect at the time of the child’s birth. The law has changed significantly over the past decades, so it is critical to determine which law applies to the case at hand. The current law for children born after on or after November 14, 1986 is as follows:

A child born abroad to one U.S. citizen and one foreign national must demonstrate that the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. for five years, at least two of which were after the age of fourteen.

Many Lawful Permanent Residents also become citizens through derivation of citizenship. A permanent resident child living in the U.S. may, under certain circumstances, automatically derive citizenship if one or both of the child's parents has naturalized or is a citizen. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) has greatly simplified the process of derivation of citizenship. The law now reads that an individual who on or after February 27, 2001 was under the age of 18, unmarried, a Lawful Permanent Resident, and in the legal and physical custody of at least one U.S. citizen parent is automatically a citizen. Prior to the enactment of this law, more complex laws governed the derivation of citizenship for Lawful Permanent Resident children.

Denaturalization

Under U.S. immigration law, a U.S. citizen is subject to denaturalization – or revocation of citizenship – if they procured naturalization illegally, by concealing a material fact, or by willful misrepresentation. Only U.S. Attorneys can bring denaturalization proceedings, and they must initiate such cases before the U.S. federal courts. The government must prove its case by evidence that is clear, unequivocal, and convincing. The U.S. Supreme Court clarified in U.S. v. Maslenjak that not all false statements made in the naturalization context will support denaturalization — the government must prove that the false statement influenced the citizenship process.

Given the gravity of stripping an individual of their citizenship and the high burden of proof required by the law, denaturalization cases have been rare in recent decades. However, in June 2018, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna confirmed that USCIS created a task force to review thousands of cases of suspected fraud to refer for potential denaturalization proceedings.

How we help: Our attorneys consult with clients concerned about denaturalization and co-counsel with civil litigators in denaturalization proceedings.

To speak with an immigration attorney about U.S. citizenship or naturalization issues contact Grossman Young & Hammond.

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