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Dispelling Myths About Citizenship

Law Office of Layne C. Savage March 26, 2022

USA Passport and Naturalization Certificate of Citizenship Immigrating to the United States involves different steps, including an entry visa, a work visa, a green card (lawful permanent resident — LPR — status), and ultimately citizenship. If your aim is to become a U.S. citizen, there are legal hurdles and qualifications that you must meet, and misunderstandings and confusions often abound.

For instance, do you really need to become a citizen if you have LPR status? Does getting married to a U.S. citizen automatically give you U.S. citizenship?

Foreign nationals here on U.S. soil often face issues regarding their legal status and opportunities for citizenship and can get conflicting — or even ill-informed — answers from friends and family members.

If you’re a foreign national seeking U.S. citizenship, and you’re located in or around Providence, Rhode Island, contact the Law Office of Layne C. Savage. Attorney Layne C. Savage is an immigration attorney who has consistently fought for immigrants’ rights and will fight aggressively for yours or your loved one’s as well.

Common Myths About the Citizenship Process

It’s all too common for immigrants to become confused about the citizenship process. Friends and relatives may tell them horror stories — or even nice stories — that may or may not be relevant to their own quest for U.S. citizenship. Some of the more common misunderstandings or myths are:

Citizenship is No Different Than Permanent Residency

If you obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status by receiving a green card, you are definitely allowed to work and reside in the United States. Green cards expire after 10 years, however, and if you received only conditional LPR status, that expires in two years. Conditional status can be based on marriage or entrepreneurship, and you need to petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to remove the conditional status. A green card also does not grant you voting rights — only citizenship does.

Marrying a U.S. Citizen Automatically Makes You a Citizen

First of all, USCIS is onto marriage fraud, so just doing a “quickie” marriage to a U.S. citizen can be a red flag that you’re committing fraud, and your application for a green card or naturalization can be denied. Generally speaking, you must stay married to a U.S. citizen for three years after obtaining your green card. You can then apply for naturalization provided you can speak, read, and write English and pass a civics test.

Continuous Residence and Physical Residence Are the Same

To apply for naturalization with a green card, you must have resided continuously in the U.S. for five years unless you are married to a U.S. citizen, which reduces the requirement to three years. This is the continuous residency requirement. On top of that, you must be physically present in the U.S. for 30 months within the five-year period or 18 months within the three-year time frame.

If Your Citizenship Application is Denied, There is Nothing You Can Do

Not true. Although about 10% of N-400 naturalization applicants are denied, the applicants are given 30 days to appeal the denial with a hearing before a different immigration official. If that hearing results in a denial, they can submit an appeal to a Federal District Court. However, if your application is denied because of the continuous residency/physical present requirements or because of a criminal background, the appeal might be denied until matters are cleared up.

If Your Children Are U.S. Citizens, You Can’t Be Deported

This depends on different factors If your U.S. citizen children are under the age of 18, then you can be deported if you are undocumented or your visa has expired. When your children reach the age of adulthood, they can sponsor you to become a permanent resident.

Having a Criminal Record Denies You the Chance at U.S. Citizenship

USCIS retains the right to deny your naturalization application on the basis of your lacking a good moral character, which includes the commission of crimes in the U.S. or abroad. Generally, you will have to wait three to five years to clear your record if you wish to apply for citizenship.

In other words, the crime must have been committed five years before applying for citizenship with a green card — the normal requirement — or three years if you’re married to a U.S. citizen, also the normal requirement. If it happened during either of those periods, the clock starts ticking again. Serious crimes, such as murder and other aggravated felonies, will automatically and permanently bar a person from being considered to have good moral character.

Rely On Experienced Legal Counsel

Your best course to obtain either lawful permanent resident status or being naturalized as a U.S. citizen goes through the counsel and guidance of knowledgeable legal counsel. The Law Office of Layne C. Savage stands ready to answer all your immigration questions and navigate you through the immigration process. We proudly serve clients throughout Rhode Island and in the Boston, Massachusetts area. Contact us immediately with your immigration issues and questions.