(212) 944-9420

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Linkedin


Now is a good time to give serious thought to becoming a U.S. citizen if you are a permanent resident and eligible.   Non-citizens, even permanent residents, are facing obstacles and hindrances on their status.  The immigration system is facing huge sea change.  Permanent residence can be lost as a result of certain crimes as well as because of significant trips overseas, abandonment, fraud, and other violations. The revocation of LPR status could then lead to  subsequent removal from the country.  Many legal immigrants in lawful permanent resident status do not apply for citizenship after the requisite waiting period. Reasons include the costs of applying, a reluctance to renounce their allegiance to their country of birth although most countries now maintain dual citizenship, and a lack of interest in voting.

Citizenship is important not only because of the rights it confers but also because it comes with responsibilities. As the Los Angeles Times noted, a representative democracy infers that its members contribute to a self-governing commonwealth which is impossible to achieve so long as large numbers of permanent residents do not seek naturalization.  The department of Homeland Security estimates that an estimated 13.2 million Legal Permanent Residents live in the United States and 8.9 million of them were eligible to naturalize.   These individuals should naturalize  to become citizens.  In addition, because of the safety of citizenship, the importance of filing is more critical;  for those qualified, now is the time to apply!

Requirements to apply for naturalization

Permanent residents are eligible for citizenship if they meet all the following requirements:

  • The foreign national has resided in the United States as a permanent resident continually for five years. A foreign national is eligible after three years if the permanent residents have been married and living with their United Stated citizen spouse for that period.
  • The foreign resident has been physically present in the United States for half of the five or three year period and cannot have broken their period of residency
  • The foreign national must has resided at least three months in the state in which the citizenship application will be filed
  • The individual must be a person of good moral character
  • The individual must possess a basic knowledge of US governmental and history
  • Ability to read, write and speak basic English
  • The individual is at least eighteen years old, competent to take an oath of allegiance to the United States and is able to express willingness of allegiance to the Untied States

With respect to the foregoing, there are some areas which greatly impact the viability of citizenship applications.

The following issues may impact a foreign national’s ability to obtain citizenship

  • Arrests
  • Lying to government officials including USCIS officers and Consular officers
  • Fraud (i.e. marriage and/or other immigration fraud)
  • Failure to pay child support
  • Failure to file tax returns when required to do so
  • Significant periods outside the United States
  • Failure of a male to register for the selective service between 18 and 26 years
  • Lack of moral character for the last five years

If any questions arise relating to the foregoing, please feel free to contact our office.  Areas that are common concern are discussed more fully below.

Time spent outside the US

Time spent outside the United States can impact the application in two ways; non-citizen must have lived for a specified period inside the United States to be eligible for citizenship and one trip of six months or longer may potentially breaks the residency period.  As a result, although travel outside of the U.S. is permitted, the applicant must have lived in the United States more than half the time during the preceding qualifying period and thereafter through the time of the oath ceremony.  In addition, periods outside the United States for greater than six months can break the continuous residence required to be eligible for citizenship.

Good moral character 

The meaning of good moral character for U.S. citizenship covers a wide variety of behavior. Interface with law enforcement can have significant impact on eligibility for citizenship.   Even acts which do not result in convictions may impact moral character if they occurred during the statutory period required for good moral character.  In addition, certain may the foreign national who committed it forever barred from establishing good moral character and naturalizing.

Review of file/issues for fraud or a mistake of law

Another issue to be aware of is that when applying for U.S. citizenship,  the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may look into the entire immigration file of the applicant, and review whether the immigration benefits afforded were a result of fraud or a mistake.  This could come up, for example, if someone applied as an unmarried child of a US citizen or permanent resident and got married prior to the grant of the residence and neglected to inform the adjudications Officer of the change.  The USCIS will also run a background check.

The New York immigration law firm of Oltarsh & Associates has been assisting foreign nationals obtain US citizenship for over sixty-five years.  As leaders in the field we dedicated to providing legal assistance to easy as well as difficult matters and we strive to make the process as easy and seamless as possible.  Please contact us if you wish to apply!