Monday, 16 April 2012 16:01
Immigration law is one of the most complex areas of the law. The path to citizenship is constantly changing due to political and economic pressures. Some say that the true path to citizenship is through an immense pile of forms, forms, and forms. An experienced immigration attorney represents clients in front of the various federal agencies that control deportation, naturalization, and citizenship procedures.
The basic requirements for citizenship as provided by the Immigration and Nationality Act are:
- Being age 18 or older.
- Being a permanent resident for a certain amount of time (usually 5 years but less for some individuals).
- Have a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States during those 5 years.
- Being a person of good moral character.
- Have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government.
- Being able to read, write, and speak basic English.
But it is not that simple. Without a family member who is a citizen, or some sort of highly specialized skill, the next steps are not as clear or easy.
When an illegal immigrate violates a criminal law, overstays a visa, or is denied permanent alien status, the process to remove them from the country is called deportation. Once deported, the person may not return to the United States for as long as 5 years. But there are defenses to deportation. The immigration judge must have an actual reason for removing you from the country, and an immigration attorney may be able to have the charges dismissed, permitting you to stay.
Citizenship through naturalization
Naturalization is the process through which immigrants become United States citizens. In most cases, it begins with becoming a permanent resident. There are numerous ways to be considered a permanent resident, but most require entering the country legally and living here for a certain period of time. Once that timeframe is satisfied, then the naturalization process continues with the alien showing they have good moral character, knowledge of civics and basic English, and finally swear an oath or ‘attachment’ to the U.S. Constitution.
Citizenship through Marriage
Marrying a U.S. citizen is sometimes called the ‘fast track’ to permanent resident status. However, since there are no quotas or other limitations to issuing green cards for marriage, the federal government pays very close attention to these types of applications. Therefore it is always good advice to have a wedding ceremony where the citizen’s family is present as witnesses. Property owned jointly, and the filing of joint tax returns is also a good way to prove marriage. Once the marriage is established, an immigration attorney can file the appropriate forms with the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services to gain permanent status (and green card). However, even marriage may not help if you have entered the country illegally.
Citizenship Though Service in the Military.
Throughout American history, service in the armed forces has been one of the surest paths to citizenship. If you serve honorably in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp, Coast Guard, or some National Guard units in a time of war, you are eligible for immediate citizenship.
Whether you are a resident alien, foreign nation employee, or under threat of deportation, your rights depend on effective representation by an experienced immigration attorney.