If You’re Thinking About Becoming A United States Citizen . . .
We’ll Help Guide Your Journey To Success
- Were you born in the United States but not able to prove your citizenship?
- Were you born in another country, and one of your parents is a U.S. citizen?
- Are you a permanent resident and ready to take the next step?
Whatever your circumstances, winning U. S. citizenship is not simple. Failure can be more dangerous than many immigrants suspect. An innocent error or missing evidence may lead to deportation.
In recent times, the roads to citizenship and naturalization have been made stricter. More pitfalls exist today than ever before, standing in your way between you and your dream of United States citizenship.
There are four paths to becoming a U.S. citizen. Each of these situations present different problems of proof and impose different requirements.
Yet, when you become a citizen, you will have reached the final step – the final frontier – of your immigration journey.
You will be entitled . . . finally . . . to the full benefits of life in the United States, including the ability to travel and visit loved ones freely, to work for state and national government offices, to buy a house in a better neighborhood, and to build long-term economic security for your loved ones and family.
What Are The Paths To Citizenship?
There are four separate paths to U.S. citizenship:
- Citizenship through Birth – Children born inside the United States
- Citizenship through Acquisition – Children born in another country to U.S. citizen parents
- Citizenship through Derivation – Children of lawful permanent residents who naturalize
- Citizenship through Naturalization – U.S. citizenship after earning and living in permanent resident status
Each of these paths has its own set of requirements. Each poses unique challenges for immigrants seeking to become full fledged citizens.
A. Birthright Citizenship:
Persons Born In The United States
You probably think this category seems strange. “If a person is born in the United States,” you wonder, “aren’t they automatically U. S. citizens?”
Well, as a immigration family unity lawyer, I know it’s not always that straight-forward – especially if the parents are not U. S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
Citizenship Case Example Number One: Can An Immigrant Born Via Midwife Services Prove Birthright Citizenship?
James came to our Hemet immigration and citizenship law office after the immigration judge ordered him to be deported. After going to a football game in Moreno Valley with some friends, he was picked up when the driver made a rushed right turn. James did not have any immigration documents. He was turned over to immigration officers.
Talking with James, I learned he was born in the United States. He was not born in a hospital. A midwife and a priest helped his mother give birth. She could not afford medical care. She left to her home country soon after. James was raised by his aunt and uncle in the U.S. They never registered his citizenship.
James, now 25, faced being sent to live in a country which he had never seen. The immigration judge did not believe James’ citizenship claim. I advised James he could still fight back but it would not be simple.
He would need to get strong evidence from his family to prove he was a citizen. He would have to try everything possible to locate his mother. He had remained lifelong friends with the priest, a good starting point. He would need to file an immigration appeal to keep his hopes alive while he fought to prove his citizenship.
Most recently, those against immigration have started a drive against certain children born in the U.S. They argue that children, born to parents without legal documents, should not be entitled to citizenship by birth.
B. Acquisition Of Citizenship:
Citizens Born In Other Countries
If you were born in another country, and at least one of your parents was a U. S. citizen, you may qualify as a U. S. citizen by birth.
This process is called “acquisition of citizenship.”
Citizenship Case Example Number Two: If A Child Of A U.S. Citizen Parent Is Born In Another Country, Is She Entitled To Citizenship?
Sheryl’s mother, Elia had fallen in love with Miguel shortly after high school. Elia was born and raised in San Diego County. Miguel lived in Mexico. Elia continued to live and work in National City but she would travel back and forth on the weekends to be with Miguel.
About two years later, Sheryl was born in a Mexican hospital. Elia brought her to the United States. She never filed papers to show Sheryl’s citizenship. It was not an issue until after Sheryl graduated from high school. Suddenly, Sheryl needed to prove her U.S. citizenship.
Sheryl and her mother went to an immigration services specialist. The specialist filed papers on Sheryl’s behalf but they were rejected. Sheryl felt lost. She could not work legally in the U.S. She feared being deported someday.
When they came to our San Diego immigration law office, they felt Sheryl’s case was over. They felt they had no options. We explained they would have to start over again.
To begin, we needed to obtain Sheryl’s complete immigration file from the government. We wanted to study what went wrong with her first set of citizenship papers. We wanted to make sure we could explain those mistakes to the government and prevent immigration fraud charges being filed against Sheryl and her mother.
C. Derivative Citizenship: Children Of Lawful Permanent Residents
Third, if you are a lawful permanent resident when your parent naturalizes, you may be eligible to become a U. S. citizen through a process known as “derivation of citizenship.”
D. Naturalization: The Final Frontier For Lawful Permanent Residents
Fourth, you can earn U. S. citizenship through “the naturalization process.”
This is the most commonly known path to full legalization.
Naturalization is the final step for immigrants in the family unity process after they have earned lawful permanent resident status.
Citizenship Case Example Number Three: Why Is Naturalization A Difficult And Scary Process For Many Law-Abiding Immigrants?
For over 20 years Jane, who now lived in San Bernardino, had been a lawful permanent resident. She wanted to become a U.S. citizen. She delayed for two reasons. First, she felt like she was betraying her home country, Guatemala. Second, she was very, very afraid of the naturalization process.
When she lived in Riverside, Jane’s first efforts to become a permanent resident had failed. Even though she later earned a green card through the same immigration program, that experience scarred her deeply. She vowed to never go through the immigration process ever again.
But her dream to become a U.S. citizen never died. She was proud to live here. She was proud of the many benefits she gained by living in the U.S. legally. And she knew the benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen were even greater. After three meetings with our office, she finally decided to take the next step to move from winning permanent resident status to full legalization and citizenship.
Obstacles And Pitfalls To Winning Naturalization Cases
Don’t take the naturalization process lightly.
As noted earlier, winning naturalization due to requirements like good moral character and continuous residence are is trickier than most immigrants suspect.
Here are a few hurdles and problems you could face.
Obstacles To Naturalization
The naturalization process, the most common path for immigrants seeking citizenship, has its own set of unique problems that can befall an unsuspecting permanent resident seeking to advance to citizenship.
For example, if your dream is to become a U. S. citizen, a small mistake many years ago can destroy your chances of success. A conviction, even for a minor offense, may become a major impediment to winning your immigration naturalization case.
Even mere allegations of certain types of convictions and past restraining orders might become large barriers to obtaining naturalized citizenship status.
Other types of potential problems are:
- Voting in U. S. elections as a permanent resident
- Avoiding payments of child support
- Failing to pay income taxes or filing inaccurate tax returns
- Not registering for the Armed Services
- Staying outside the U. S. for a long period of time
Arrests And Convictions
Sometimes it is a huge mistake for immigrants to apply for citizenship.
Let me repeat that.
Sometimes it is a huge mistake for immigrants to apply for citizenship.
As an immigration naturalization attorney, I’ve seen many people jump the gun and apply for citizenship without verifying their eligibility. By the time they arrive at my immigration office, it’s simply too late to help them.
If any of the above situations potentially apply to you, you should consult with an attorney not only experienced in citizenship law, but also versed in the immigration consequences of convictions and arrests BEFORE you file any papers.
Such rules are strict. For instance, many immigrant veterans have been deported, even though they were supposedly on a track to expedited military citizenship, due to post-service offenses.
Even if the allegations against you were false, or if the charges were dropped, you could still face serious roadblocks during the naturalization process.
You don’t want to take unnecessary risks. You don’t want to take chances that your case might be sent to Immigration Court. You don’t want to face deportation charges filed by the government.
Concealing Or Falsifying Information
Instead of consulting with a citizenship attorney to discuss potential problems, some immigrants try to hide information from the government.
They think once they obtain citizenship, they’re safe from deportation. This is not true.
Falsifying information places immigrants in greater jeopardy.
If their hidden or falsified information is ever discovered, the government can press criminal charges and begin the denaturalization process against them, stripping them of their citizenship status and leading to their deportation.
All of the pitfalls listed above can – and should – be avoided.
Looking for more information about citizenship? Check out our citizenship and naturalization resources page.
What Are The Benefits Of Citizenship?
If you’re like a lot of our immigration naturalization law office clients, you may want to know why you should apply for citizenship.
Here’s why. If you are granted citizenship, under any of the four categories listed above, you gain the right to:
- Vote in U. S. elections for government officials
- Help immigrate certain relatives to the U.S., often more quickly than if you are just a lawful permanent resident
- Travel outside the U. S. with a U. S. passport wherever and whenever you want
- Run for public office (except President and Vice-President)
- Increased protection from deportation and removal
- Seek government benefits, and various scholarships and grants
- Live in another country without losing your right to return to the United States
It’s Never Too Late For Citizenship
It’s never too late to become a U.S. citizen.
I tell all my clients and prospective clients – and, in fact, any immigrant or permanent resident who takes the time to listen to me.
My belief was reinforced by a great story written and shared by Kelli Scott, in a recent post for the Seattle Times.
The story covers the recent naturalization of Maria Ramirez Perez.
On Christmas Day 1929, Ms. Ramirez was born in a small, poverty-stricken town in rural Mexico. She did not attend school and never learned to read. Yet, on December 11, 2017, she was sworn in as a U.S. citizen at the of age of nearly 88.
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to help a good number of immigrants naturalize who were in their 50’s and 60’s, and a few in their 70’s. But I’ve not had the opportunity to help any become citizens in their 80’s.
Citizenship success is one of those unspoken, intangible rewards, the type that keeps my fire to help immigrants, even in the dark ages of immigration law, burning brightly.
The road to citizenship success for most, if not all, immigrants is rarely simple. And for seniors, it’s more perilous.
To Ms. Ramirez and her family, congratulations.
Now It’s Your Turn To Join The Family Of
United States Citizens
For most immigrants, becoming a U. S. citizen is the end of a long journey.
It is also a matter of personal pride.
There are many different reasons why you might want to become a citizen. But if you’re like most of our clients, once you reach that goal, you will share the same sense of gratitude and accomplishment.
To get where you’re at today, the road may have been bumpy. Most likely, the bumpier the road, the greater your fears about filing new immigration papers.
At the immigration citizenship and naturalization offices of Carlos Batara, we understand those bumps. We understand your fears. We understand your dreams.
So why delay?
We’re here to help guide your journey to immigration success.
Ready to take a serious and honest look at the strengths and weaknesses of your citizenship case? Let’s get started with a personalized strategy and planning consultation . . .