A Naturalization Attorney Can Help Individuals in South Florida Apply for United States Citizenship
There is no denying that the path to United States citizenship is long, complicated, and taxing. The status of your immigration application carries lifelong implications. A single document can determine where you live, how you will support your family, and whether or not you are safe.
Thankfully, naturalization attorneys can provide expert guidance. Each year, these professionals help individuals make important steps toward their goal of United States citizenship. Naturalization lawyers in Lake Worth and Wellington, Florida, can help you understand government forms, prepare you for interviews and tests, and provide guidance when problems arise.
Below we walk through the naturalization process from start to finish. We will discuss the Application for Naturalization, the Citizenship Interview, the Naturalization Oath Ceremony, and how a naturalization attorney can ease stress along the way.
Why Should You Hire a Citizenship Attorney in Lake Worth, Florida?
Our leading Attorney Lourdes Casanova at Casanova Law helps individuals in Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, Stuart, and all of South Florida who wish to become citizens of the United States pursue their goals.
At Casanova Law, our leading attorney Lourdes Casanova helps individuals in Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, Stuart, and all of South Florida who wish to become citizens of the United States pursue their goals.
We will walk you through every step of the naturalization process. From completing the appropriate application and accompanying paperwork to confronting setbacks, we have significant experience in effectively managing the challenges associated with the citizenship process.
What is Naturalization?
Naturalization is the process of becoming a United States citizen if you were born in another country. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, has the power to grant citizenship. However, citizenship is only granted to those who meet certain requirements.
Who is Eligible to Apply for Naturalization?
The path to United States citizenship can be complicated and time-consuming; therefore, it is important to first establish your eligibility to apply for naturalization.
Though exceptions do exist, individuals are eligible to apply if they:
- Are 18 years of age or older
- Have been a permanent resident of the United States for at least five years
- Have not been out of the United States for 30 months or more in the last five years
- Can read, speak, and write basic English
- Know the fundamentals of United States history and government
You may also be eligible to apply for naturalization if you have been married to a United States citizen for the past three years, or if you are serving or have served in the United States Armed Forces. A citizenship attorney in South Florida can help you determine your eligibility to apply for naturalization.
What Is the Application for Naturalization (Form N-400)?
The Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) is a lengthy document with detailed questions regarding the applicant’s family, employment, background, and history.
With few exceptions, the Department of Homeland Security will only grant United States Citizenship to a permanent resident if it believes that the resident:
- Demonstrates good moral character
- Has maintained continuous residence in the United States
- Exhibits adequate English language skills
- Possesses knowledge of United States history and government
- Shows loyalty to the United States
Failure to show these elements could result in the denial of an applicant’s request for citizenship and even subject an applicant to deportation.
The N-400 should not be taken lightly. If there is any doubt about the questions on the application, it is best to seek the help of an experienced citizenship lawyer in Lake Worth or Wellington FL who will prepare the application and accompanying evidence on your behalf while protecting your interests.
How Do I Properly Submit an Application for Naturalization (Form N-400)?
Completing the Application for Naturalization, or N-400, can seem simple. After all, the N-400 form asks straightforward questions like your name, date of birth, and country of birth. But nothing is simple when it comes to immigration.
For instance, regarding questions that do not apply to you, should you write “N/A,” “None,” or just leave the item blank? If you are married, should your last name be your maiden name or your married name?
The best way to ensure accurate responses and to minimize delays in the processing of your Form N-400 is to hire an experienced citizenship attorney in Wellington who has the legal and practical knowledge to maneuver through the system. However, if you decide to venture into the immigration world on your own, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Read the instructions carefully. You can download the instructions for any particular immigration application from the corresponding USCIS webpage.
- Respond according to the official record. Make sure your typed responses match the information on your birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport, etc.
- Explain your response if needed. Most applications contain a section at the end titled “Additional Information.” If you answered a yes-or-no question and were unsure how to respond, you can explain your uncertainty at the end of the application. Similarly, if you have a criminal history or prior immigration violations, you should explain the circumstances in the “Additional Information” section. (Note: You should seek legal advice from a citizenship attorney prior to making any admissions on your Form N-400.)
- If you need additional space, attach a separate sheet of paper. Do not go outside the boxes. On the additional sheet of paper, include your full name, Alien Registration Number, form number of your application, case number (if applicable), and question you are elaborating on (including part, section, and item number).
- Review your responses before submitting. Do not assume you got it right the first time. Your case is too important to make silly mistakes.
The approval or denial of your immigration application could have lifelong implications. That is why it’s crucial to understand how to properly submit an immigration application. If there is any doubt about your application, contact a citizenship attorney for help.
What Is the Citizenship Interview?
As a citizenship attorney, we get a lot of questions from clients about the citizenship interview. Perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of the naturalization process is the United States citizenship interview. Upon completing the Form N-400 and biometrics, applicants for United States citizenship must undergo a personal citizenship interview with immigration officials.
The citizenship interview, which is held at the USCIS office in the region where the applicant lives, serves many purposes. For example, it gives USCIS officials an opportunity to review applications as well as to test the applicant’s ability to speak, read, and write English. It also provides officials with an opportunity to test the applicant’s knowledge of United States history and government. After completing the interview, USCIS officers decide whether or not applicants are eligible for citizenship.
How Can a Naturalization Lawyer Help with the Citizenship Interview?
Before completing your Application for Naturalization, it is important to consult a Form N-400 lawyer as they can spot any red flags in your application that could lead to denial of citizenship.
It is also helpful to have a citizenship test lawyer attend the interview with you. If present at the interview, a citizenship attorney can ask for questions to be rephrased, can clarify discrepancies, and can even prevent the USCIS officer from asking unreasonably difficult questions.
What Should I Expect from the Citizenship Interview?
Upon arrival for your U.S. citizenship interview, you will be asked to show your appointment notice and to pass through security. After the security check, you will be led to a room to wait with other applicants until your name is called. Once your name is called, a USCIS officer will lead you to a desk and ask you to swear to tell the truth.
During the interview itself, the USCIS officer will review your N-400 application and ask you questions about the information provided. Part of this process is to determine your capacity to speak and understand English. You will also be tested on your ability to read and write English by being asked to read aloud and write a sentence dictated by the USCIS officer. Finally, you will answer some questions to prove your proficiency in United States history and civics.
If you are approved for citizenship, you will be scheduled for a swearing-in ceremony where a judge will officially proclaim you a United States citizen and will award you with a certificate showing your new status.
What is the Naturalization Oath Ceremony?
Once USCIS approves your Application for Naturalization, you will receive a time and date for the Naturalization Oath Ceremony. During this ceremony, you will recite the Oath of Allegiance, an oath that allows you to become a fully naturalized United States citizen.
How Should I Prepare for the Naturalization Oath Ceremony?
The oath ceremony should be an exciting time; however, it could also come with some trepidation. The best way to ensure everything goes according to plan on this special day is to work with an oath ceremony lawyer. As an oath ceremony lawyer here in Lake Worth, FL, we work with clients to help them understand what to expect in the final stages of their naturalization journey.
Once USCIS approves your Application for Naturalization, you will receive a time and date for the oath ceremony. If the date and time do not work for you, it may be possible to reschedule but that is ill-advised since failing to attend could result in a denial of citizenship.
It is important that you bring the appropriate paperwork to the oath ceremony. First and foremost, you will need to bring the Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony form, a questionnaire you receive after the citizenship interview. You will also need to bring your permanent resident card, your reentry permit (if applicable), and any other documents requested by USCIS. Paperwork will be reviewed prior to the ceremony.
What Happens After I Recite the Naturalization Oath?
After pledging to renounce allegiance to any foreign nations and declaring that you will defend the United States constitution, you will receive a Certificate of Naturalization. This document should be thoroughly reviewed for errors. Thereafter, you may apply for a passport, register to vote, and update your Social Security record. These actions “cement” your status as an American citizen.
What Common Issues Can Derail the Naturalization Process?
As you prepare your U.S. citizenship N-400 application, you may think the path to citizenship in the United States will be easy, especially if your green card process was successful or if you’ve never had run-ins with immigration since getting your green card. While it may be true that you have been an upstanding member of the community by anyone’s standards, it is dangerous to assume that USCIS knows this. By law, you bear the burden of proving you qualify for citizenship. Further, you should never assume that anything is too trivial to escape the attention of immigration authorities.
You want to make sure you provide complete responses on your citizenship application and enclose the right documents; otherwise, your N-400 application can be denied, resulting in the initiation of deportation proceedings if immigration accuses you of fraud or misrepresentation.
The best way to ensure that you are submitting a solid application is to seek the help of an experienced Form N-400 lawyer in Lake Worth, Florida. An experienced Form N-400 lawyer can help you understand how to properly complete the immigration application and, in doing so, minimize unnecessary delays or rejections.
A citizenship attorney can help you identify and address any red flags in your Application for Naturalization. Some common pitfalls include:
- Excluding traffic tickets from your Form N-400. The Application for Naturalization asks several questions regarding law violations. Failing to provide any information or documentation about traffic infractions could result in denial of your application or a delay in the form of a “Notice of Continuance” or “Request for Evidence” from USCIS.
Have you ever been pulled over by the police? Were you issued a ticket for speeding, running a red light, or reckless driving? If so, you need to carefully consider your responses and gather documentation on those infractions. If you do not have copies of citations along with their dispositions (how the case was resolved), you must request these from the clerk’s office in the jurisdiction that handled your case. In Florida, this is even more critical when you simply pay your ticket rather than elect traffic court. Payment of your ticket constitutes an automatic plea of guilty and likely a conviction with points on your license.
- Not updating your address with USCIS. Individuals are required to provide an address update to USCIS with every move. The USCIS address change form is the AR-11, and it can be completed online. If you never updated your address from the time you became a Lawful Permanent Resident, you technically violated an immigration requirement.
However, this is one of the few mistakes that immigration officials usually forgive, as they know most people are not aware of the requirement to provide address updates. A citizenship attorney will recommend that you complete the Form AR-11 online prior to submitting your citizenship application. On the citizenship application itself, provide accurate information on all the places you resided within the five years immediately preceding the filing of your Form N-400.
- Allowing your green card to expire. Although you are not technically required to renew your green card when applying for citizenship, most immigration officials prefer to see a current, unexpired green card when reviewing your citizenship application.
If your green card is about to expire and you are deciding between applying for citizenship or renewing your green card, a citizenship attorney will recommend that you do both. Although this is the costlier route, it is also the safer one. If your green card has already expired, it is even more important to renew it prior to applying for citizenship so that you can show immigration officials that you take immigration laws seriously.
- Traveling often. Immigration is not a fan of constant travel. This is particularly true if the traveler spends more than six months outside of the United States on any single trip. Immigration officials are also wary if the traveler spends more than 2.5 years outside of the United States in the five years before filing the citizenship application. One of the requirements for citizenship is establishing “continuous residence” in the United States and traveling can prevent you from meeting this burden.
- Constantly changing jobs or residences. Although there is no law that says you cannot move or change jobs, the unspoken rule is to remain stable while applying for citizenship. Why? You want your Application for Naturalization to be as simple as possible. You will be required to list all jobs and addresses within the last five years, and any mistake could raise the suspicion of an immigration official. You also want to make sure that you have resided in one location for at least three months prior to filing your citizenship application; otherwise, USCIS might return or deny your application on the basis of filing it in the wrong jurisdiction.
There is no such thing as an easy or simple path to citizenship. Many factors depend on the immigration officer and your particular case. The best way to ensure that you are submitting a solid application is to seek the help of an experienced immigration attorney. If you still choose to attempt the process on your own, make sure you gather the right information before going forward.
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United States Citizenship Attorney FAQs
How Much Does a Naturalization Lawyer in South Florida Cost?
Attorneys’ fees for representation in a Naturalization case vary depending on the complexity of each case. Factors that can impact pricing include an applicant’s criminal history, frequent changes in address or employment, prior immigration violations, tax issues, and child support issues. The good news is that legal representation in Naturalization cases are not as expensive as deportation defense. Comparatively speaking, the Naturalization process resides in the lower end of the spectrum for immigration lawyer pricing.
How Do I Choose a Citizenship Lawyer?
Choosing the right citizenship and naturalization attorney can make the difference between denial and approval of your case. It is important to hire a well-rounded immigration attorney with particularized experience in the N-400 form and citizenship interview. A well-rounded immigration attorney has both legal and practical experience regarding naturalization; this type of attorney not only knows the immigration laws, but also the administrative preferences and personalities of local immigration officers. An attorney with dual practice areas may also be useful. For example, an immigration attorney who is also proficient in criminal law may be better able to assist you in answering questions about your criminal and traffic record. You should search for a naturalization attorney in your geographic area and look at his or her reviews. You may also find a great citizenship lawyer by recommendation from someone who personally went through the citizenship process. If you find a lawyer that interests you, schedule a consultation to learn more about the attorney prior to hiring. If the attorney appears to take interest in your case and demonstrates the knowledge and experience necessary to succeed, you may have found a winner.
What Happens if My Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) is Rejected?
Naturally, failing to provide complete responses on your citizenship application or failing to enclose certain documents could result in the rejection or denial of your N-400 application. It could also result in the initiation of deportation proceedings if immigration accuses you of fraud or misrepresentation. If your case was denied for failure to provide documents or information, your best bet may be to just start all over again and do a better job the second time. Still, before reapplying, you should speak with an immigration attorney to see if there are any risks involved in submitting another application. Risks associated with reapplying include the danger of inconsistent responses in your separate applications and the possibility of alerting USCIS of a basis for deportability. Other times, immigration officers reject your application despite submitting a seemingly complete and problem-free application. If this is the case, you may consider filing an appeal or motion for reconsideration. Upon denial or rejection of your case, USCIS will normally provide the reasons for denial in writing. It is critical to read the denial letter carefully and understand the basis for denial before deciding on your next move. An experienced naturalization attorney can help you understand the reasons for rejection and advise how to best proceed.
What Happens if I Fail the Naturalization Test?
During your citizenship interview, you must demonstrate an understanding of the English language as well as answer important questions about American government and history. If you fail either of these tests or if the USCIS official needs more documentation, you may be rescheduled for another interview within 60 to 90 days. If the only thing getting in the way of your U.S. citizenship is the test – as opposed to other issues such as fraud, excessive travel, or failure to show good moral character – there is still hope. A citizenship interview attorney in Wellington, Florida, can help you prepare for your retest. Your citizenship interview lawyer can also be present during your second interview, and can ask for questions to be rephrased, clarify discrepancies, and even prevent the USCIS officer from asking unreasonably difficult questions.