The lawful status of persons immigrating to the US varies according to the category through which they entered the US. You can use the non-immigrant visa if your stay in the US is temporary and you can come through an immigrant visa if your intention is for a permanent stay.
All immigrants have two options – become permanent residents (Green Card holders) or become citizens. Though both these statuses give you the right to live and work legally in the United States, certain advantages are conferred only to the US citizens. But if you want to apply for citizenship, you have to be a green card holder. In addition to this, there are other requirements you need to satisfy, should you want to apply for citizenship.
As far as green card is concerned, there are many ways to get one. One is through marriage. Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) has to be filed by a US citizen or US lawful permanent resident (LPR) to establish the relation to his/her relatives who want to come to the US. If you are a US citizen and your spouse is already in the US, your spouse can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status with the USCIS at the same time as you file the petition for Alien Relative.
Another way to get a green card is through the Diversity Visa lottery program that is conducted annually. You can also get one through employment. Immigrants under the Refugee or Asylee status can also apply for a green card.
If you become a US citizen, you have the right to hold federal jobs and the right to vote. You are free to travel wherever and for however long you want to. You will be protected even when you are traveling overseas. The State Department will make sure you travel home safely and will assist you through the US consulates abroad. Your spouse, children and other children you adopt can also become US citizens through your status. Though you will be required to file certain applications to document their status, the process will be less difficult.
The Citizenship Application Process:
Once you satisfy all the eligibility requirements that is needed to apply for citizenship, you can file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization with the USCIS. You will have to mail the completed US citizenship application along with your photographs, fees and supporting documents to the USCIS address mentioned in the instructions that come along with the citizenship form.
Once the USCIS receives your form, they will send you an appointment letter for fingerprinting. After your fingerprints are taken, you will have to wait for a letter of appointment from the USCIS for your interview. They will send a letter (Notice of Action) that will have the date, time and location of the interview.
Your knowledge of basic English Language and history of the US government (which is another requirement in the citizenship process) will be tested. If you prove your ability in the tests, you will be called to take the Oath and indeed, receive your Certificate of Naturalization. If you do not attend the Oath Ceremony, you should return the Form N-445, ‘Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony’ to the designated local Application Service Center (ASC). You should also attach a letter that would explain why you were not able to make it to the original ceremony. Then the USCIS will reschedule the date for your Oath Ceremony and will send new Form N-445 (Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony) that would have details of the ceremony.
Every year, thousands of people come to the United States of America, either for a visit or to live and work there. United States, the land of immigrants is the most preferred destination in terms of immigration. Immigrants understand the privileges of being lawful residents in the US. The process and procedures of entering the US vary based on the intention of one’s visit. Visas and green cards are the most commonly preferred methods to facilitate the visit. To get a visa or green card, US immigration forms have to be filed at the American Consulate in the immigrant’s home country or with the USCIS if the applicant is in the US.
Immigrant and non-immigrant visas are the two types of visas available. Non-immigrant visas are for temporary visits such as for tourism, study, or work whereas immigrant visas are for Permanent Residence later which will fetch you US Citizenship. Visitor visas, work visas, student visas are some of the visas that are issued based on the immigrant’s intention of visit. The US immigration forms are available on the government’s official website http://www.uscis.gov. Apart from this, there are many private websites that have the US immigration forms on their website and they charge a fee for helping the applicants in preparing and filing the forms. An attorneys’ assistance is sought at times to complete the forms that can be complicated at times.
The USCIS (formerly known as the INS) is the official government agency that processes and gives a decision for all the applications/petitions filed in the US. They are the sole authority that approves or rejects any form. Approximately 40% of the applications/petitions submitted are rejected annually because of being erroneous or incomplete. This proves that the US immigration forms are at times sophisticated to file. The US immigration laws are very strict and vigilant to make sure all immigrants enter and stay legally. So any form filed even with the smallest of errors gets rejected. The application is rejected if the authorities find even a small evidence of suspicion. So it is always recommended that the applicant be transparent and truthful in all the information he/she provides in the application.
All the immigration forms have separate filing instructions that will have information about the fees, the supporting documents they need to send and the mailing address and also other additional instructions that is user specific. After the applicant submits his/her application to the USCIS, he/she will get a receipt for the form filed. This notice will have a number with which the applicant can check the status of the application/petition submitted. The applicant will also be notified about the biometrics appointment. The processing time for the forms varies from one another. The process may be expedited for certain applicants considering the situation under which they are filing. The USCIS revises the forms frequently and it is the expiry and revision dates of the forms that get updated. Some applications can be e-filed. In this case, all supporting documentation can be submitted at the time of their interview.
To prove one’s eligibility for US citizenship, applicants have to take the US citizenship test that includes English language and Civics. During the US citizenship test and interview process, you can expect questions about your application package and background. Basically, all the applicants need to prove their ability to read, write and speak basic English and also demonstrate that they have basic knowledge of the US history and government. Reading, writing, and speaking are tested in the English section and important U.S. history and government topics in the civics section.
How many citizenship interview questions should I answer?
You have to read one out of three sentences correctly to prove your ability to read in English and you have to write one out of three sentences correctly to prove your writing ability. Additionally your speaking ability will be judged by the way you answer the questions during the interview. In the Civics part, there are 100 questions. Here you will be asked 10 questions from the given list of 100 questions. You should be able to answer at least six questions correctly to pass the civics section of the citizenship test. If you are not able to answer the citizenship interview questions (fail the test), you will be given another chance and tested again on the same section of the test you failed within ninety days of having taken the first test.
Some applicants are exempted from taking the citizenship interview questions. If you are above 50 years of age and have been a permanent resident for periods totaling at least 20 years OR above 55 years of age and have been a permanent resident for periods totaling at least 15 years, then you need not take the English test. In both cases, you will be required to take the civics test, but you can take the test in a language of your choice. If you fall under these categories, you should mark 50/20 or 55/15 in red on top of your US citizenship application appropriately.
If you are aged above 65 years and have been a permanent resident of the US for periods totaling at least 20 years, then you need NOT take the English test. Even in this category, you need to take the civics test in a language of your preference. But this test will be a simpler version compared to others. From a list of 25 questions, you will be asked 10. You should mark 65/20 if you fall under this category and as mentioned earlier, it should be marked in red on top of your citizenship application.
If the applicant has a medically proved physical or mental impairment and if this disability affects their ability to learn English and civics, then they can apply for an exception from the US citizenship interview questions. Under these circumstances, the applicant should file Form N-648 requesting an exception and this should be filed along with the N-400 application.
Persons who are eligible for a waiver of the English proficiency requirement should bring an interpreter for the test. The test is not a multiple choice test and note that your civics knowledge will be tested orally.
The 100 citizenship interview questions will be about the American government, the system of government, rights and responsibilities, American history, recent American history and other important historical information. Integrated civics will have topics related to geography, symbols and holidays. As mentioned before, you will be asked ten from the set of 100 questions and you should be able to answer at least six out of ten questions correctly to pass the civics test.
Very few are aware of the fact that children born outside the US to US citizen parents can claim US citizenship through their parents’ status if they meet certain requirements. This also depends on the laws that existed at the time the child was born. Another important aspect to know is that if you were born in the United States, you automatically are a US citizen.