Austin & San Antonio Citizenship Attorneys
Comprehensive Naturalization Guidance
Many immigrants hope to one day become permanent U.S. citizens. Citizens cannot be removed from the country and enjoy many powerful rights, including the ability to vote. Only lawful permanent residents – immigrants with green cards – can apply for citizenship through naturalization.
The naturalization process can sometimes be daunting and confusing. Our Austin & San Antonio citizenship lawyers are deeply familiar with this process and can guide you every step of the way. We can advise whether you currently qualify for naturalization, and, if not, we can help explore your legal options. At Peek & Toland, we are committed to helping immigrants realize their American Dreams and can provide the knowledgeable representation you need to achieve your goals.
Qualifying for U.S. Citizenship
You will not be able to immediately initiate the naturalization process once you have a green card, however. You will first need to wait a specified period of time, the duration of which will depend on how you obtained your visa. If you procured your visa through marriage to a U.S. citizen, you must wait at least 3 years before applying for naturalization. If you obtained your green card through practically any other means, you must wait at least 5 years.
Prospective citizens must also meet several other requirements before they are eligible for naturalization, including:
- Being at least 18 years old (in most situations)
- Demonstrating good moral character
- Maintaining sufficient continuous and physical presence for the duration of the applicable mandatory waiting period
- Being willing to perform civil service when called upon and registering for military service if male and of a certain age
- Establishing residency in the state from where you intend to apply for citizenship
Certain exemptions are sometimes available, and military citizenship is handled differently. Our Austin & San Antonio attorneys will carefully analyze your circumstances and determine whether you are eligible for naturalization. Our team is made up of creative problem solvers, so, if necessary, we can evaluate all possible exemptions and work to identify outside-the-box solutions that will help you qualify.
The Naturalization Process
Once you have met all naturalization requirements, you can initiate the process by submitting the necessary application documents to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). About a month after USCIS has received your request, you will be asked to attend a biometrics appointment at a local field office. Your fingerprints will be taken and used to conduct a background check.
Next comes what will likely be a lengthy wait. Most people will historically wait around 14 months before their USCIS in-person interview is scheduled. You could potentially wait longer if your local USCIS office is especially backed up.
At your in-person interview, a USCIS officer will review and confirm the details of your naturalization application. They will also conduct a two-part citizenship exam. This English language portion of the exam will test your ability to speak, read, and write in the English language. The civics component will assess your knowledge of the United States government and the country’s history.
No portion of the citizenship exam is meant to be especially difficult, and we can help you prepare. You will pass the speaking element if you are able to understand and answer the USCIS officer’s questions. For the reading test, you will be provided with three sentences and must read one of them aloud. For the civics test, you must correctly answer 6 out of 10 questions. The questions you may be asked come from a pool that is pre-published and can be studied in advance.
Exam exemptions are available to immigrants with medical disabilities and immigrants of a certain age who have lived in the U.S. as lawful permanent residents for a certain number of years. You will be given an opportunity to retake any portion of the exam you do not initially pass.
If the USCIS officer is satisfied with the answers you gave during the interview and you pass all portions of the citizenship exam, your application will be approved. Once you have completed the Oath of Allegiance in a scheduled ceremony, you will officially become a permanent U.S. citizen.
Many members of our staff at Peek & Toland are immigrants themselves and thus understand the practical and symbolic importance of naturalization. Our Austin & San Antonio citizenship lawyers can serve as your guides and advocates throughout each stage of this process.