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What Is Citizenship?

28th March 2011
By Paul Anderson in Immigration Law
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US Citizenship

To qualify for American citizenship, you should be at least 18 years or older and a permanent resident (Green Card holder). You have to be a permanent resident for five years to be eligible to file for citizenship. If your spouse is a US citizen, the permanent residency requirement for you is only three years. In such a case, you have to be in marriage to a U.S citizen and be living with that U.S citizen spouse for the past three years of your permanent residency for these criteria to be applicable.

You should have also resided in the US for a considerable period before filing the citizenship application. If you are not married to a US citizen, you should have resided. for a continuous period of five years in the U.S after becoming a permanent resident. Whereas, if you are married to a U.S. citizen, you should have resided in the U.S. for a continuous period of three years after being given permanent resident status in the U.S.

If you are away from the U.S. for a long time, it will break the continuity of your residence in the U.S. if you are applying for US citizenship. But this will not affect your return to the U.S. as a permanent resident. For citizenship purpose, though an absence from the U.S. of less than six months will not break the continuity of residence, absence for a period of six months or more will break the continuity of residence. If the break is between six months and one year, it can be excused if a reasonable explanation is provided, an overseas employment for instance. If the break is for over one year, the continuity of residence can be preserved if suitable steps are taken before the expiration of a year overseas to preserve the residence and if you meet certain requirements.

These requirements alone are not sufficient to qualify for citizenship. You should also satisfy certain physical presence requirements. You should have been physically present in the US for a certain period of time. You should also have resided in your current state for at least three months. Current state is the state where you are filing your application.

Another requirement in the citizenship process is that you should not have broken any US immigration laws and should not have been ordered to leave the US. Additionally, you should also prove at least 5 years of good moral character. You should also take an English language test and a civics test. Most applicants have to prove that they can read, write and speak basic English. You should also prove that you have basic knowledge of US history and government.

But some applicants will be exempted from taking this citizenship test based on their age and also if they have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where it affects one's ability to learn English and civics. And finally, you should take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

As a US citizen, you will have the right to hold federal jobs and also the right to vote. You can travel wherever and for however long you want. You will also be protected even when you are abroad. The State Department ensures you travel home safely and you can get assistance from the US consulate abroad. Your spouse and children can also become US citizens through your status. Though they have to file certain applications to document their status, the process will be less difficult.
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