Complex Citizenship

Complex Citizenship

Do you want to naturalize and become a U.S. Citizen but you have a criminal history?
Do you have any outstanding income tax or child support payments?
Did you obtain your green card based on marriage but are now divorced?


Becoming a U.S. citizen is the ultimate goal for many immigrants. Naturalization can be a quick, painless process and once approved, provides many benefits. No more worry about how long you’ve been outside of the U.S. or whether CBP will let you back in. It allows you the freedom to live and work in the world wherever you want and always be allowed to return to the U.S.  You can vote and sponsor your parents for U.S. permanent residency. And much more.

If you are not born in the U.S., the typical way to apply for U.S. citizenship is through naturalization. But it is also possible to inherit U.S. citizenship by relation to your parent or grandparent who may have had U.S. citizenship and not even know it. The laws on U.S. citizenship, acquisition at birth of citizenship from a family member, and what is required have changed many times in the last 125 years. Qualifications change depending on when a parent or grandparent was born and how much time they spent in the U.S. These can be very difficult cases to prove, not only determining the right law to apply but coming up with the documents to prove it that are likely many decades old. But our attorneys have done it.  Check out our page on acquiring U.S. citizenship here.

Other laws allow the passage of citizenship to a child when a permanent resident parent becomes a U.S. citizen in certain circumstances. Still other provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act allow special military citizenship procedures that can speed up the attainment of U.S. citizenship.

U.S. Citizenship Through Naturalization

If you know you need to apply through naturalization to become a citizen, this too can be complex and potentially harmful to those who do not prepare for it or who have taken certain actions after becoming a permanent resident.  Typically, to file for naturalization, you must have:

  • been a permanent resident for either 3 years if you are the spouse of a U.S. Citizen and are living with your spouse in marital union in the U.S. for the 3 years immediately before you file your application and you must maintain that relationship and continue living in marital union the entire time your case is pending. If you obtained a green card through asylum, an employment offer, or any other means, you could generally be eligible for apply for naturalization after five years as a green card holder.
  • maintain physical and continuous residency requirements regardless of the time period;
  • demonstrate good moral character;
  • speak and write English (with limited exceptions) and pass a civics test.

Special Naturalization Problems:

However, there are other requirements to naturalization that requires an exercise of caution. For example, criminal convictions, child support irregularities, outstanding income tax payments, misleading information on previous immigration applications, how you obtained your green card, and even your travel history can significantly affect the outcome of your application. If you have been a draft dodger or a conscientious objector to military involvement in wars and conflicts and refuse to take the oath that requires you to take up arms for the U.S., you may need help to get this waived. See our special pages on these special naturalization problems:

Challenges to Moral Character in Naturalization Cases

Applying for naturalization can also lead to being placed into deportation proceedings if you have committed a certain crime or have abandoned your residency status by too much time abroad or have otherwise lied to USCIS or the consulate on a prior application or to obtain your residency. It is crucial to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer before you file to ensure that your naturalization application does not have underlying issues that may result in the subsequent rescission of your lawful permanent resident status and your removal from the U.S.

Losing Your Green Card Through Rescission

Naturalization interviews can also be difficult depending on your case history and the officer you encounter and their experience level. It is always advisable to have an attorney present at your interview to ensure that your rights are protected and the law is fairly applied. There are many types of questions that we encounter every day:

  • Was I required to register with the Selective Service System? What if I didn’t?
  • How long does the citizenship application process take?
  • My green card will be expiring soon. Do I need to renew it before I apply?
  • Will my misdemeanor crime that I served no jail time for affect my case?
  • What is my marriage falls apart while my case is pending?

SGG’s team of attorneys regularly handle complex naturalization and acquisition cases for clients all over the country. We represent clients in the filing of their application with USCIS, at their naturalization interviews, and prep them for what’s to come throughout the process. Our clients feel prepared, confident, and know what to do to improve their chances of success. Many of our clients give us the ultimate compliment of hiring us after their oath ceremony to file a green card case for a parent or sibling, an opportunity they never had until s/he became a U.S. citizen.

For more information about naturalization, applying for U.S. citizenship, or proving you acquired U.S. citizenship through a family member, call us at 213.627.8997 today to book a detailed Case Evaluation appointment with an experienced family and removal immigration attorney.

It’s time to get started. Call us: (213) 627-8997