The future of immigration law in the U.S. is, to put it as simply as possible, uncertain at the moment. The White House has expressed interest in reducing the total number of immigrants allowed into the country, and it has stepped up immigration enforcement to an even greater degree than the previous administration. In this environment, immigrants living in the U.S. seem to be stepping up their own efforts to claim whichever benefits may be available to them under current immigration laws. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reportedly seen an increase in the number of naturalization applications that it has received in recent months. Immigrants in the New Jersey and New York areas, including lawful permanent residents, nonimmigrant visa holders, and others, should be aware of their status and their rights under federal immigration law.
The Naturalization Process
“Naturalization” allows an immigrant to become a citizen of the United States, with almost all of the rights and obligations associated with that status. An individual begins the process of becoming naturalized by filing Form N-400 with USCIS. The general eligibility criteria for naturalization can be broadly divided into three groups: age and immigration status, residence, and education and character. An applicant must be at least 18 years old as of the date they file their N-400, and they must have held lawful permanent resident status (i.e., a “green card”) for at least five years.
The residence requirements are perhaps the most complicated aspect of determining eligibility. An individual must have maintained a residence in the U.S. for five continuous years. They must have been physically present in the U.S. for 30 or more months of that five-year period. Finally, they must have resided in the state where they are filing their application for at least three months.
The final group of eligibility criteria consumes much of the time required to process an application. An applicant must possess “good moral character,” meaning they must pass an extensive criminal background check. They must also pass two tests: proficiency in written and spoken English, and U.S. history and politics. The history and politics test is somewhat notorious, since native-born Americans tend to perform far worse than naturalization applicants.
Once a person’s naturalization application is approved, they become citizens at an official swearing-in ceremony. The government cannot revoke naturalized citizenship once it has been granted, except under extremely narrow circumstances.
According to figures made available by USCIS, the agency received 289,988 N-400s during the second quarter of fiscal year 2017, which covers the period from January through March 2017. It approved 167,309 applications during that time. The two USCIS facilities that receive N-400s in New Jersey, in Mount Laurel and Newark, received 14,551 N-400s and approved 9,109 during that time. The national numbers represent a significant increase from the first quarter of fiscal year 2017, although it is far too early to say whether this represents a new trend.
Samuel C. Berger, an immigration attorney who practices in New York City and Northern New Jersey, represents immigrants and prospective immigrants, as well as their family members and employers. Contact us today online, at (201) 587-1500, or at (212) 380-8117 to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our knowledgeable and skilled team.
More Blog Posts:
Immigration Panel Rules on Claim of U.S. Citizenship Acquired through Naturalized Parent, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, May 25, 2017
U.S. Supreme Court Reviews Government’s Authority to Revoke Naturalization, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, May 11, 2017
Dual Citizenship Under U.S. Immigration and Nationality Law, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, April 14, 2016