Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he/she fulfills a series of requirements established by law. You may qualify for citizenship through naturalization, in general, if: (1) you have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements; (2) you have been a permanent resident for 3 years or more and meet all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen; (3) you have qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces and meet all other eligibility requirements. Other eligibility requirements include but are not limited to: being 18 years of older; meeting the continuous residence and physical presence requirement; residing for at least three months in the state where the application is being filed; being a person of “good moral character.”
Each applicant must demonstrate knowledge of the English language, and pass a basic test on the history and government of the U.S. Waivers of the English requirement and civics test may be obtained in certain cases, depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. A physical or mental disability that impairs an applicant from adequately completing a test may serve as basis for a waiver. Also, the English test requirement may be waived when the applicant is of a certain age and has been a permanent resident for a certain number of years, depending on the case. A thorough analysis of the circumstances of the case is required in order to determine a person’s eligibility for a waiver.
- Child Citizenship Act
A child born outside the United States on or after February 28, 1983, automatically acquires citizenship from his or her parents on the date all of the following conditions are met: one parent is a citizen by birth or naturalization; the child is under 18 years of age; the child resides in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence and the child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent. This provision is applicable to adopted children even if adopted abroad if certain requirements are met. Note that other conditions may apply, and an analysis of the facts of the case is always necessary.
- Derivative Citizenship
If a child does not automatically acquire citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act, a child born outside the United States may still derive citizenship by virtue of his or her parent or parents’ birth or naturalization. If the child does not qualify through the U.S. citizen parent, he or she may derive citizenship through a U.S. citizen grandparent. A series of eligibility requirements as to the U.S. citizen (or U.S. citizen grandparent) must be met in order to derive citizenship, depending on the child’s date of birth. The analysis is extremely fact-specific, and must be supported by documentation.
A naturalized United States Citizen may lose citizenship via administrative or federal court proceedings or as a result of a criminal conviction for knowingly procuring naturalization by fraud. The competent authority may strip the person of his/her citizenship after the corresponding procedure has taken place. A citizen may also voluntarily lose citizenship by performing certain acts demonstrating their intent to renounce it, such as membership in certain subversive, communist or anarchist organizations; serving in a post, office or employment of a foreign government; or making a formal renunciation before a U.S. Government official, among others.
A series of defenses can be posed in the defense and protection of the person’s acquired citizenship. It is best to contact a professional in the field of immigration law if and when placed in any proceeding related to denaturalization.
- Litigation in Federal Court
Occasionally, a case may experience extreme delays by the government agency processing the application. In such cases, we will analyze the facts and circumstances of the case to advise you if it is possible and recommended to take further action in Federal Court in order to force the agency to make a decision in the case. We will generally recommend that all other options be exhausted before pursuing this extreme remedy. Attorney Kari Ann Fonte is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and Attorney Alexandra Friz-Garcia is admitted to both the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida.
Additionally, some decisions made by the Board of Immigration Appeals or other agencies may be appealed to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. Such appeals may involve a single straightforward issue, or they may involve numerous complex issues of law that require intense litigation. Our firm is able to handle such appeals, whether or not we handled the case originally, if we determine that there is an appealable issue in the case.
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