Citizenship & Naturalization
Gaining citizenship in the United States is the ultimate goal of many immigrants who come to America. However, not all immigrants are eligible for citizenship and, if handled incorrectly, the naturalization process can quickly become problematic and may lead to removal proceedings and deportation. If you are thinking of becoming a naturalized U.S. Citizen, or if you think you already are a U.S. citizen, please review the information below and contact Gafner Law Firm to begin the process.
Overview of Naturalization and Citizenship
Table of Contents
|Do I Qualify for Naturalization?||Frequently Asked Questions|
|Am I Already a U.S. Citizen?||Naturalization Test Outline|
|Why Hire a Naturalization Lawyer?||Free Naturalization Test Questions|
Do You Qualify For Naturalization?
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The following is a general overview of whether a person is eligible for naturalization. However, many other factors must be considered, including whether a person has good moral character and meets the testing requirements on American Civics and English.
|How Long Have you Been a Permanent Resident (LPR)?||Time as Permanent Resident||Continuous Residence||Physical Presence in the United States||Time in USCIS District or State|
|If you are at least 18 years old and:Have been a Permanent Resident for the past 5 years and have no special circumstances.Note: Over 90% of applicants fall into this category||5 years||5 years as a LPR without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longer||30 months||3 months|
|If you are at least 18 years old and:
|3 years||3 years as a LPR without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longer||18 months||3 months|
|If you:Are in the U.S. Armed Forces (or will be filing your application within 6 months of an honorable discharge); and Have served for at least 1 year.||Must be a Permanent resident on the day of interview.||Not Required||Not Required||Not Required|
|If you are at least 18 years old and:Were in the U.S. Armed Forces for less than 1 year, orWere in the U.S. Armed Forces for 1 year or more, but you were discharged more than 6 months ago||4 years||5 years as a LPR without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longer.Note: A below||30 monthsNote: All Time in U.S. Armed Forces counts as time physically present in United States||3 months|
|If you Performed active duty military service during:World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, or after September 11, 2011||Not Required||Not Required||Not Required||Not Required|
|If you are at least 18 years old and were married to a U.S. citizen who died during a period of honorable active duty service in the U.S. Armed Forces.||Must be LPR on the day of interview||Not Required||Not Required||Not Required|
|If you are at least 18 years old and:Are a U.S. national; and have become a resident of any State, and are otherwise qualified for naturalization||You are not required to be a Permanent Resident||Same Requirements as any other applicant for naturalization, depending on your qualifications.||Same Requirements as any other applicant for naturalization, depending on your qualifications.||3 month or not required, depending on qualifications|
|If you are at least 18 years old and:Served on a vessel operated by the United States, or If you served on a vessel registered in the United States and owned by U.S. citiczens or a U.S. corporation||5 years||5 years as a LPR without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longerNote: B below||30 months||3 months|
|If you are at least 18 years old and Are an employee or an individual under contract to the U.S. Government||5 years||5 years as a LPR without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longerNote: C below||30 months||3 months|
|If you are at least 18 years old and are a person who performs ministrerial or priestly functions for a religious denomination or an interdenominational organization with a valid presence in the United States||5 years.||5 years as a LPR without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longer.Note: C below||30 months||3 months|
|If you are at least 18 years old and are employed by one of the following:
|5 years||5 years as a LPR without leaving the United States for trips of 6 months or longer.Note: C below||30 months||3 months|
|If you are at least 18 years old and:
|5 years||Not Required||Not Required||Not Required|
|If you are at least 18 years old and are the spouse of a U.S. citizen who is:
|You must be a Permanent Resident at the time of your USCIS interview.||Not Required||Not Required||Not Required|
Note A: Time spent outside of the United States as part of your service does not break continuous residence.
Note B: If you were out of the country while serving on a vessel, this time out of the country does not break your continuous residence. It is treated just like time spent in the United States.
Note C: An absence from the United States for 1 year or more will break your continuous residence. You may keep your continuous residence if you have had at least 1 year of unbroken continuous residence since becoming a Permanent Resident and you get an approved Form N-470 before you have been out of the United States for 1 year.
Naturalization: Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of becoming a U.S. Citizen?
Voting. U.S. citizens are able to vote in federal, state, and local elections. As a permanent resident of the United States, you cannot have a voice in elections until you become a citizen.
Participation and Opportunity. U.S. citizens are also able to run for public office and to serve on a jury. Additionally, only U.S. citizens qualify for certain government jobs and scholarships.
Benefits. U.S. citizens have more access to public benefits, including social security payments, than permanent residents.
Immigration of Immediate Relatives. U.S. citizens are also able to better help their immediate relatives immigrate to the United States.
Do I need a lawyer to help me with my Naturalization Application? Why?
Many naturalization applicants do not use a lawyer in their applications. Many of these applicants are successful, many are not. A naturalization application can quickly spiral into disaster if not handled correctly. The problems can cause delays, and often, denial. Many applicants who are denied naturalization are placed in removal proceedings. Thus, naturalization applicants who are one step away from citizenship can find themselves being deported from the United States following a failed naturalization application.
How Long is the Process to Obtain U.S. Citizenship?
It varies – depending of location. Generally, a naturalization application takes about five to seven months to process. To find out how long applications are taking in your region of the United States, please visit the USCIS’s list of field office processing times.
When can a Permanent Resident Apply for Citizenship?
Most commonly, a lawful permanent resident must wait five years before seeking naturalization. Spouses of U.S. Citizens can seek naturalization after three years of permanent residency. Additionally, the required time period may be shorter in special circumstances (e.g. being a member of the U.S. military).
Do I have to wait until the five-year or three-year mark passes before applying for naturalization?
No, applicants can apply up to 90 days before being eligible for naturalization.
Is there any age limitations on naturalizing?
In almost all instances, a person must be 18 before naturalizing to become a U.S. citizen.
Is dual citizenship allowed by the United States?
Yes, individuals can possess dual citizenship. The United States is not fond of dual citizenship, but recognizes that it is a part of long established international law. Although the United Stats allows dual citizenship, it is necessary to ensure that the other country also allows for dual citizenship. Many do not allow dual citizenship.
Who must be registered with the Selective Service?
Only males between the ages of 18 and 26 must register with the Selective Service. Not registering with the Selective Service does not permanently bar an applicant from becoming a naturalized citizen, but it may cause problems and should be handled with care before applying for naturalization.
What does Good Moral Character Mean and Why should I care?
To be eligible to naturalize, a person must demonstrate good moral character. Good Moral Character can be demonstrated by NOT:
- committing a crime involving moral turpitude
- committing two or more offenses which result in conviction and the aggregate sentence imposed exceeds five years
- violating a controlled substance law
- admitting to have committed a crime described above, but never being formally charged, indicted, arrested or convicted
- being confined to a penal institution (jailed) for an aggregate of 180 days pursuant to a conviction
- giving false testimony to gain immigration benefit
- being involved in prostitution
- being involved in smuggling a person or persons into the U.S.
- practicing polygamy
- committing two or more gambling offenses
- having earned income principally from illegal gambling activities
- having been a habitual drunkard
- by willfully failing to support dependent family members
- committing adultery causing break-up of a family
- failing to register for Selective Service
- failing to file or pay income taxes
If an applicant has committed one of the acts noted above, then naturalization may still be possible, but care must be taken before applying for naturalization.
Are there any individuals who are barred from naturalizing?
- deserters of the armed forces
- advocates of anarchy
- advocates of communism within past ten years, and
- certain individuals who have been convicted of aggravated felonies.
Must a naturalization applicant speak, read and write English?
Yes, in almost all cases, a naturalization applicant must speak, read and write English. Exemptions to this requirement exist for applicants with physical disability or mental impairment, applicants over 50 years old who have resided in the United States as a permanent resident for over 20 years, or if the applicant is over 55 years old and has resided in the U.S. as a permanent resident for over 15 years.
What type of questions should I expect on the Civics and Government part of the Naturalization Test?
The USCIS offers study guides for the naturalization test. Applicants need not buy or use any other study guides. This NYC naturalization firm discusses the examination on its website.
Am I Already A U.S. Citizen?
Although that question might sound strange at first, many individuals do not realize that they are already U.S. citizens. Individuals may be U.S. citizens based on either their place of birth and/or their parent’s nationality.
Whether a person possesses citizenship through parentage is very fact specific. The law determining citizenship through parents has changed frequently through the years. If you have parents (or other direct ancestors) that possess (or possessed) U.S. Citizenship, it is highly recommended that you consult with a knowledgeable citizenship lawyer.
Additionally, minor children of lawful permanent residents who become naturalized U.S. citizens may also automatically gain citizenship.
Those individuals who qualify must apply for a certificate of citizenship.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the firm.
Do I Need A Citizenship and Nationality Lawyer to Help Me with My Naturalization Application?
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The simple answer is this: How much risk do you want to take? Although many individuals successful obtain naturalization without consulting a lawyer, many attempt to obtain citizenship and fail. Additionally, many of those individuals who are denied naturalization are referred to removal proceedings and face the possibility of being removed from the United States.
Obtaining citizenship through naturalization offers many benefits, but with so much at stake an applicant will be better off and have more peace of mind by consulting a citizenship and naturalization lawyer.
Why consult with a citizenship lawyer?
- A citizenship lawyer will review all of the facts concerning your situation and will advise of any potential defects in your application.
- A citizenship lawyer can also alert you to concerns that the immigration agency may have with your application and direct you on how to overcome those concerns.
- A citizenship lawyer will work with you to remedy any potential defects in your citizenship application.
- A citizenship lawyer will work to ensure that no defects arise after your citizenship application’s submission.
Peace of Mind:
- A citizenship lawyer will lessen the chance of having your citizenship application denied.
- A citizenship lawyer will provide insight on what to expect during the process, the interview, and the tests.
- A citizenship lawyer will be available to answer any questions that may arise during the process.
Should I be concerned about having long-distance legal representation?
No, in many ways retaining a citizenship lawyer from afar is better than retaining a local lawyer who does not often handle naturalization cases. Retaining a citizenship lawyer from this firm will enable you to:
- Access legal advice from the comfort of your office or home.
- Receive prompt and accurate legal advice from a lawyer whose practice is focused on citizenship and naturalization.
- Keep tabs on your application after its submission to the immigration agency.
- Ask questions of your citizenship lawyer throughout the entire citizenship application process.
- Not be inconvenienced by an office visit.
- Have your citizenship application processed quickly and securely.
- Obtain advice about what to expect during a citizenship interview.
- Know exactly what your flat fee costs will be.
Citizenship & Naturalization N-400 Test Questions
During the naturalization interview an applicant will need to demonstrate an ability to read, write and speak English. Additionally, the applicant will need to answer certain civics questions asked by the immigration official. These requirements may be waived for certain individuals.
Reading – The applicant must read one sentence out of three that the interviewing official will give to the applicant.
Writing – The applicant must write one out of three sentences that the interviewing official will give to the applicant.
Speaking – The interviewing official will determine an applicant’s eligibility by listening to the applicant’s responses to the questions normally asked during the naturalization interview.
A naturalization applicant will be required to answer six questions correctly out of the ten that are asked by the interviewing official. The ten questions will come from the one hundred questions that the immigration agency provides (and that are provided below). The USCIS offers study guides for the civics section of test on its website.
100 Civic Questions in English
At your naturalization interview you will be required to answer six of ten questions correctly. The ten questions that will be asked all come from the following list of 100 questions. Please let me know if you have any questions.
A: Principles of American Democracy
- What is the supreme law of the land?
Answer(s): The constitution
- What does the constitution do?
Sets up the government
Defines the government
Protects basic rights of Americans
- The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
Answer(s): We the People
- What is an amendment?
Answer(s): A change (to the Constitution)
An addition (to the Constitution)
- What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
Answer(s): The Bill of Rights
- What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?*
Petition the government
- How many amendments does the Constitution have?
Answer(s): Twenty-seven (27)
- What did the Declaration of Independence do?
Announced our independence (from Great Britain)
Declared our independence (from Great Britain)
Said that the United States is free (from Great Britain)
- What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
Pursuit of Happiness
- What is freedom of religion?
Answer(s): You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion.
- What is the economic system in the United States?*
- What is the “rule of law”?
Everyone must follow the law.
Leaders must obey the law.
Government must obey the law.
No one is above the law.
B: System of Government
- Name one branch or part of the government.*
- What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
Checks and balances
Separation of powers
- Who is in charge of the executive branch?
Answer(s): The President
- Who makes federal laws?
Senate and House of Representatives
U.S. (or national) legislature
- What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?*
Answer(s): The Senate and House of Representatives
- How many U.S. Senators are there?
Answer(s): One hundred (100)
- We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
Answer(s): Six (6)
- Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators now?*
Answer(s): Answers will vary.
- The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
Answer(s): Four hundred thirty-five (435)
- We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years?
Answer(s): Two (2)
- Name your U.S. Representative.
Answer(s): Answers will vary.
- Who does a U.S. Senator represent?
Answer(s): All people of the state
- Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?
Because of he state’s population
Because they have more people
Because some states have more people
- We elect a President for how many years?
Answer(s): Four (4)
- In what month do we vote for President?*
- What is the name of the President of the United States now?*
Answer(s): Barack Obama, Obama
- What is the name of the Vice President of the United States?
Answer(s): Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Joe Biden, Biden
- If the President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
Answer(s): The Vice President
- If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
Answer(s): The Speaker of the House
- Who is the Commander in Chief of the Military?
Answer(s): The President
- Who signs bills to become laws?
Answer(s): The President
- Who vetoes bills?
Answer(s): The President
- What does the President’s Cabinet do?
Answer(s): Advises the President
- What are two cabinet-level positions?
Secretary of Agriculture,
Secretary of Commerce,
Secretary of Defense,
Secretary of Education,
Secretary of Energy,
Secretary of Health and Human Services,
Secretary of Homeland Security,
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development,
Secretary of the Interior,
Secretary of Labor,
Secretary of State,
Secretary of Transportation,
Secretary of the Treasury,
Secretary of Veterans Affairs,
- What does the judicial branch do?
Resolves disputes (disagreements)
Decides if a law goes against the Constitution
- What is the highest court in the United States?
Answer(s): The Supreme Court
- How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
Answer(s): Nine (9)
- Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?
Answer(s): John Roberts (John Roberts, Jr.)
- Under the Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?
To print money
To declare war
To create an army
To make treaties
- Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states?
Answer(s): Providing schooling and education, providing protection, providing safety, give a driver’s license, approve zoning and land use
- Who is the Governor of your state now?
Answer(s): Answer varies
- What is the capital of your state?*
Answer(s): Answers will vary
- What are the two major political parties in the United States?*
Answer(s): Democratic and Republican
- What is the political party of the President now?
- What is the name of the Speaker of the House of Representatives?
Answer(s): Nancy Pelosi
C. Rights and Responsibilities
- There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them
Citizens eighteen (18) and older (can vote).
You don’t have to pay (a poll tax) to vote).
Any citizen can vote. (Women and men can vote)
A male citizen of any race (can vote).
- What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?*
Serve on a jury
Vote in a federal election
- Name one right only for United States citizens.
Vote in a federal election
Run for federal office
- What are two rights of everyone living in the United States
Freedom of expression
Freedom of speech
Freedom of assembly
Freedom to petition the government
Freedom of worship
The right to bear arms
- What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge Allegiance?
The United States
- What is one promise you make when you become a U.S. Citizen?
Give up loyalty to other countries
Defend the Constitution and laws of the United States
Obey the laws of the United States
Serve in the U.S. military (if needed)
Serve (do important work for0 the nation (if needed)
Be loyal to the United States
- How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?*
Answer(s): Eighteen (18) and older
- What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy?
Join a political party
Help with a campaign
Join a civic group
Join a community group
Give an elected official your opinion on an issue
Call Senators an Representatives
Publicly support or oppose an issue or policy
Run for office
Write to a newspaper
- When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?*
Answer(s): April 15th
- When must all men register for the Selective Service?
Answer(s): At age eighteen (18)
Between eighteen (18) an twenty-six (26)
A. Colonial Period and Independence
- What is one reason colonists came to America?
Practice their religion
- Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
Answer(s): American Indians, Native Americans
- What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?
People from Africa
- Why did the colonists fight the British?
Because of high taxes (taxation without representation)
Because the British army stayed in their houses (boarding, quartering)
Because they didn’t have self-government
- Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
Answer(s): (Thomas) Jefferson
- When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
Answer(s): July 4, 1776
- There were 13 original states, Name three.
- What happened at the Constitutional Convention?
The Constitution was written
The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution
- When was the Constitution written?
- The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.
- What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?
Oldest member of the Constitutional Convention
First Postmaster General of the United States
Writer of “Poor Richard’s Almanac”
Started the first free libraries
- Who is the “father of our country”?
Answer(s): George Washington
- Who was the first President?*
Answer(s): George Washington
- What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
Answer(s): Louisiana Territory, Louisiana
- Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s?
War of 1812
- Name the U.S. war between the North and the South.
Answer(s): The Civil War
The War between the States
- Name one problem that led to the Civil War.
- What was one important thing that Abraham Lincoln did?*
Freed the slaves (Emancipation Proclamation)
Saved (or preserved) the Union
Leg the United States during the Civil War
- What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
Freed the slaves
Freed slaves in the Confederacy
Freed slaves in the Confederate states
Freed slaves in most southern states
- What did Susan B. Anthony do?
Fought for women’s rights
Fought for civil rights
C. Recent American History and other Important Historical Information
- Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.*
World War I,
World War II,
Persian Gulf War
- Who was President during World War I?
Answer(s): Woodrow Wilson
- Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II?
Answer(s): Franklin Roosevelt
- Who did the United States fight in World War II?
Answer(s): Japan, Germany, Italy
- Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?
Answer(s): World War II
- During the Cold War, what was the main concern of the United States?
- What movement tried to end racial discrimination?
Answer(s): Civil rights
- What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?*
Fought for civil rights,
Worked for equality for all Americans
- What major event happened on September 11, 2001 in the United States?
Answer(s): Terrorists attacked the United States.
- Name one American Indian tribe in the United States.
Answer(s): Cherokee, Navajo, Sioux, Chippewa, Choctaw, Pueblo, Apache, Iroquois, Creek, Blackfeet, Seminole, Cheyenne, Arawak, Shawnee, Mohegan, Huron, Oneida, Lakota, Crow, Teton, Hopi, Inuit, among others.
- Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States?
- What ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?
- What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?
Answer(s): Atlantic Ocean
- Name one U.S. territory.
Answer(s): Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam
- Name one state that borders Canada.
Answer(s): Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Alaska
- Name one state that borders Mexico
Answer(s): California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas
- What is the capital of the United States?*
Answer(s): Washington, D.C.
- Where is the Statue of Liberty?*
(Also acceptable are New Jersey near New York, and on the Hudson)
- Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
Because there were 13 original colonies
Because the stripes represent the original colonies
- Why does the flag have 50 stars?*
Because there is on star for each state
Because each star represents a state
Because there are 50 states
- What is the name of the national anthem?
Answer(s): The Star-Spangled Banner
- When do we celebrate Independence Day?*
Answer(s): July 4
- Name two national U.S. holidays.
New Year’s Day,
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day,