Naturalization and Citizenship

How do I become a citizen of the United States of America?

For most green card holders, the process of getting citizenship is uncomplicated and does not require an attorney. If eligible, the green card holder files the appropriate paperwork and fees, takes a test to determine English proficiency and knowledge of U.S. history and government, gets interviewed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and receives a certificate of naturalization, sometimes the same day as the interview.

Full disclosure of all relevant information is the key to success in getting your citizenship.

Here are the basic requirements for citizenship:

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • You must have be a lawful permanent resident (have a green card) for at least five years (three years if married to a U.S. citizen)
  • You must have good moral character for at least five years (three years if married to a U.S. citizen)
  • You must be a continuous resident of the United States after you receive your green card (absences from the U.S. between six months and one year raise a presumption that continuous residence has been interrupted)
  • You must be able to speak, read, and write the English language at a basic level
  • You must pass a test on U.S. history and the U.S. government
  • You must swear loyalty to the U.S. government

How do I know if I will have a problem getting my citizenship?

For some green card holders, the naturalization process can be tricky, especially when you have criminal convictions. In some instances, the naturalization process soon becomes a nightmare triggering not only a denial of the naturalization application, but also triggering deportation proceedings.

USCIS will review your naturalization application very, very thoroughly. USCIS will review your criminal history. USCIS will review how you entered the country, how you got your green card, and review any interviews you gave under oath to USCIS. If USCIS finds a problem, you application could be denied. If the problem is serious, USCIS could refer your case to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to initiate deportation proceedings against you.

If you even think you might have a problem getting your citizenship, you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney beforehand. If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you should seek advice from an experienced immigration attorney before applying for citizenship:

  • Since you received your green card, have you made any trips outside the U.S. that lasted more than six months?
  • Since you received your green card, have you moved to a foreign country?
  • Have you ever been deported?
  • Are you currently in deportation or removal proceedings?
  • Have you been convicted of any crimes, even if you received the conviction before you got your green card?
  • Was there any irregularity in the manner in which you received your green card?
  • Have you ever claimed that you were a United States citizen?
  • Have you ever voted in any state or federal election?
  • Have you ever helped anyone enter the United States illegally, even if it was a relative?
  • Have you ever committed fraud to receive public benefits?
  • If you are male, did you register with Selective Service between the ages of 18 and 26?
  • Have you failed to file your federal income taxes for any reason?
  • If you have children, have you failed to provide support for them?
  • Have you committed adultery that tended to destroy a marriage?
  • Have you ever made your living through illegal gambling?
  • Have you ever engaged in prostitution?
  • Have you ever been a habitual drunkard, drug abuser, or drug addict?
  • If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, please consider reviewing you naturalization application with an experienced immigration attorney.

What are some examples of problem cases?

The following examples are cases where the naturalization application was denied:

  • The Applicant filed for naturalization and disclosed a recent conviction. The conviction was not so serious to trigger deportation proceedings, but was serious enough to warrant a denial of the naturalization application based on a lack of good moral character.
  • The Applicant indicated that he had four children on his naturalization application. USCIS reviewed his file and discovered that he had only disclosed two children on his refugee application and the Applicant indicated on the naturalization application that the two additional children were born prior to the grant of refugee status. The Applicant did his best to explain the inconsistency, but USCIS ultimately concluded that he had provided misleading information and denied his application based on a lack of good moral character.
  • The Applicant failed to disclose an old conviction that the Applicant believed had been expunged. In fact, the conviction had been expunged, but USCIS ran an FBI background check which revealed the old conviction. Because the Applicant failed to disclose the conviction, USCIS concluded that the Applicant had provided misleading information which was deemed to be a lack of good moral character.

The following examples are cases where the applicant was placed into removal proceedings after filing naturalization application:

  • The Applicant filed for naturalization and disclosed an old conviction. However, the Applicant failed to disclose the conviction on his green card application. After the naturalization application was denied, the government alleged that the Applicant’s green card was invalid and that the applicant should be removed from the country.
  • Many, many years ago, the Applicant had been placed in removal proceedings, in which the government administratively closed the case. The Applicant thought the case was closed. Eventually the Applicant got married and applied for a green card and later received the green card without incident. Seven years after getting the green card, the Applicant applied for naturalization. USCIS soon realized that the removal case had never been terminated and denied her naturalization. The Applicant had to get her deportation case out of administrative closure and avoid having her green card revoked.
  • The Applicant applied for naturalization and disclosed that he had been deported in 1988. USCIS reviewed his green card application and noticed that the Applicant never disclosed the prior deport. USCIS denied the naturalization application and ICE instituted removal proceedings.

What happens if my naturalization application is denied?

If your naturalization application is denied, you can appeal. Technically, the appeal is a request for a hearing. It is not cheap. The USCIS fee to file a N-336, Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings, is $650.00, but it is worth it if USCIS made a mistake.

The firm specializes is naturalization denials. We have successfully obtained naturalization for our clients with criminal convictions, even after they had been initially denied naturalization. However, there are some situations where an appeal of a naturalization application is not the best course of action.

What can the Law Office of Timothy W. Davis do for you?

The firm will review your naturalization application with you and determine whether you should or should not apply for citizenship. If the firm believes that you will not have any problems with your naturalization application, you are free to use the firm to process you application or you may process the application yourself. In some cases, the firm may recommend that you apply for citizenship even though you have some problems. The firm has an excellent success rate with problematic naturalization applications. The firm’s legal fees for naturalization applications are competitively priced in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area.

Recent Case Results

August 21, 2015 – Citizen of India receives U.S. citizenship with theft conviction

August 21, 2015 – Citizen of India receives U.S. citizenship with theft conviction

Facts: In March 2014, a citizen of India sought a second opinion on his ability to naturalize even though he had a theft conviction.

The Firm’s Representation: This case should not have been difficult. The difficulty for the firm was that our client had received an opinion from a highly respected and high experienced immigration attorney that our client should under no circumstances attempt to naturalize. The prior immigration attorney had warned our client that if he tried to naturalize, he would be denied and placed in removal proceedings and deported. After quite a lot of discussion, the firm convinced our client that this prior advice was incorrect and the firm advised our client to file an application for naturalization, which the firm did. Making matters worse, our client’s interviewing officer at USCIS was a recent transfer from California and was not familiar with Maryland law. The firm received two disturbing Requests for Further Evidence (RFE) from USCIS. The firm responded to the RFEs and patiently explained to USCIS that our client was indeed eligible for naturalization. Nevertheless, our client was nervous the entire time, based on the initial advice from his prior immigration attorney and based on the RFEs from USCIS.

Outcome: On August 21, 2015, our client became a citizen of the United States.

May 15, 2015 – Citizen of Yemen obtains citizenship after successful coram nobis petition

May 15, 2015 – Citizen of Yemen obtains citizenship after successful coram nobis petition

Facts: In January 2013, a citizen of Yemen entered the United States and was stopped at the border and placed in secondary inspection. Even though the citizen of Yemen had a green card, he had an 16-year old conviction for the Maryland offense of second degree assault. Border patrol released the citizen of Yemen, but he was shaken nevertheless. He sought the firm’s help.

The Firm’s Representation: In 2013, the Maryland offense of second degree assault was potentially an aggravated felony under the INA. In our client’s case, he had been sentenced to 18 months incarceration, which could have triggered an “aggravated felony” classification. The firm had no choice but to seek a belated sentence reduction by way of a coram nobis petition. Luckily, our client had no further brushes with law enforcement which always helps. The coram nobis petition was granted and our client received a probation before judgment. The firm subsequently filed an application for naturalization.

Outcome: Our client is now a citizen of the United States. This case ended up being one the most gratifying cases the firm has ever worked on. When our client first approach us, he was in medical school. Eventually, our client was approaching graduation from medical school and he was applying for residency positions. Even though our client was at the top of his class in a prestigious medical school, his conviction for second degree assault was hindering any residency program from offering him a position. After our client’s assault conviction was re-sentenced as a probation before judgment, the firm received a call from our client. He asked whether he had to indicate on his residency applications that he had a conviction. The firm told our client that, under Maryland law, a probation before judgment cannot be considered a conviction for any purpose (although for immigration purposes, a probation before judgement still remains a conviction). So, our client started sending out his residency applications that indicated that he had no convictions and subsequently residency offers started pouring in. Our client eventually accepted a residency position at prestigious hospital in Baltimore, Maryland and he is on his way to becoming a full-fledged medical doctor. Everybody makes mistakes and everyone deserves a second chance. The firm was really happy to be able to help our client reach his goals.

December 29, 2014 – Citizen of Portugal and Mexico granted citizenship by operation of law

December 29, 2014 – Citizen of Portugal and Mexico granted citizenship by operation of law

Facts: In January 2014, a citizen of Portugal entered the United States on the Visa Waiver Program and came to the firm because she thought she might be a citizen of the United States.

The Firm’s Representation: Citizenship by operation of law can be very tricky, especially in this case. In this case, our client’s father was a Portuguese national who came to the United States as a child and later naturalized before our client was born. While in Mexico, our client’s father had a child – our client – with a Mexican woman, but they were not married. They eventually got married about 20 years later, in Portugal. Our client was actually born in Mexico, but obtained Portuguese citizenship when she was a teenager. Luckily, that process included documentation from our client’s father that professed financial support and paternity of our client, all of which occurred before our client turned 18 years of age.

Outcome: On December 29, 2014, our client was given a certificate of U.S. citizenship.

January 19, 2013 – Citizen of Trinidad and Tobago gets citizenship despite conviction for possession of a handgun

January 19, 2013 – Citizen of Trinidad and Tobago gets citizenship despite conviction for possession of a handgun

Facts: A citizen of Trinidad and Tobago applied for citizenship and was denied. USCIS said that his conviction for possession of a handgun was an “aggravated felony” under the immigration laws. He turned to the firm for help.

The Firm’s Representation: In January 2012, the firm filed an appeal of the USCIS decision, which is called a Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings under § 336 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. The firm wrote a ten page brief rebutting the USCIS analysis. At the interview in October 2012, the USCIS officer asserted that the USCIS position was correct and that our client’s conviction was an “aggravated felony” and that there was no way he could get naturalized. The USCIS officer did however state that she would send the case to their legal department.

Outcome: On January 19, 2013, our client was sworn in as a proud citizen of the United States.

July 27, 2012 – A citizen of Nigeria became a citizen of the United States despite a recent conviciton for disobeying a lawful order from a police officer

July 27, 2012 – A citizen of Nigeria became a citizen of the United States despite a recent conviciton for disobeying a lawful order from a police officer

Facts: A citizen of Nigeria was convicted of disobeying a lawful order from a police officer. Later, he tried to naturalize, however his naturalization application was denied based on the conviction and he came to the firm for help.

The Firm’s Representation: The firm immediately filed an appeal of the naturalization denial – technically called a Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings under Section 336 of the Act. The firm asserted that despite the conviction during the statutory period, our client was still a person of good moral character and USCIS should approve his naturalization application. After the hearing, USCIS stalled on making a decision for another year. The firm filed a mandamus action in federal court demanding that USCIS make a decision on the naturalization application.

Outcome: Three weeks after the firm filed the mandamus action in federal court, USCIS scheduled our client for a naturalization swearing in ceremony. On July 27, 2012, our client became a proud citizen of the United States.

January 30, 2012 – Appeal of USCIS naturalization decision pending

January 30, 2012 – Appeal of USCIS naturalization decision pending

Facts: A citizen of Trinidad and Tobago came to the United States in 1994 and later got a green card in 2003. Subsequently, in 2004 he pled guilty to possession of a handgun. In 2011, he applied for naturalization. After USCIS denied his application for naturalization, he sought the assistance of the firm.

The firm’s representation: The firm took our client’s case and immediately filed an appeal of the USCIS decision. The firm believed that USCIS had no legal authority to deny the naturalization application.

Case status: The USCIS appeal was filed on January 30, 2012. The appeal is still pending.

December 19, 2011 – Citizen of Ethiopia received her naturalization after USCIS alleged that she had committed certain crimes and made a material misrepresentation

December 19, 2011 – Citizen of Ethiopia received her naturalization after USCIS alleged that she had committed certain crimes and made a material misrepresentation

Facts: A citizen of Ethiopia came to the United States in 1969 on a student visa. Eventually she obtained a green card. In 1975, she pled guilty to shoplifting. In 1996, she applied for naturalization and she failed to disclose her shoplifting conviction. The legacy INS denied her naturalization application. In 2011, she sought the firm’s assistance.

The Firm’s Representation: The firm obtained the conviction records and advised our client to reapply for citizenship.

Outcome: On December 19, 2011, our client became a proud citizen of the United States.

November 28, 2011 – Citizen of France receives U.S. citizenship after receiving 212(h) and 212(i) waivers for material misrepresentation in the Immigration Court and a crime involving moral turpitude

November 28, 2011 – Citizen of France receives U.S. citizenship after receiving 212(h) and 212(i) waivers for material misrepresentation in the Immigration Court and a crime involving moral turpitude

Facts: In 1994, a citizen of France came to the United States. Several years later he was convicted of theft. At about the same time, he married a U.S. citizen and applied for a green card. He got his green card, but never disclosed his theft conviction. He twice applied for citizenship, but was denied each time. In 2010, while returning from trip abroad, he was detained by Customs and Border Patrol and placed in removal proceedings. He sought the firm’s assistance.

The firm’s representation: The firm reviewed our client’s case and saw that he was eligible for a 212(h) and 212(i) waiver based on hardship to his family.

Outcome: On July 22, 2011 the Immigration Judge granted both waivers. The firm is assisting our client with his naturalization process. Our client’s naturalization application was recently approved and he should be a citizen of the United States within 45 days. On November 28, 2011, our client became a proud citizen of the United States.

May 1, 2010 – Citizen of Uganda received his Naturalization after it was alleged that he had committed certain crimes

May 1, 2010 – Citizen of Uganda received his Naturalization after it was alleged that he had committed certain crimes

Facts: A citizen of Uganda applied for naturalization on his own. In February 2010, he received a Notice of Intent to Deny his application, which alleged that he had lied to get his green card by covering up his criminal convictions and that he lied to the officer who interviewed him for naturalization. In addition to risking denial of his naturalization application, our client also risked being placed into removal proceedings. He called the firm for help.

The Firm’s Representation: The firm aggressively responded to the notice of intent to deny and began to immediately gather new evidence. Within three weeks, the firm obtained the additional necessary evidence, took our client’s affidavit, and prepared a response memo.

Outcome: Three months after the firm started our representation of our client, on May 1, 2010, our client was sworn in as a proud citizen of the United States.