Chicago Citizenship Attorney
Naturalization Guidance in Cook County
Many immigrants hope to eventually become permanent citizens of the United States. To do so, they must first become lawful permanent residents, which involves obtaining green cards. Lawful permanent residents must meet several additional eligibility requirements before they can apply to become U.S. citizens.
Our Chicago citizenship lawyer at Aparicio Immigration Law can serve as your guide and advocate through each phase of the naturalization process. Our attorney is an immigrant himself and understands the symbolic and practical importance of becoming a U.S. citizen. When you hire our firm, you will work directly with him throughout your case. We have successfully assisted numerous clients with all matters of immigration, and our track record speaks for itself.
What is Naturalization?
The naturalization process involves granting U.S. citizenship to someone who meets the requirements set in the Immigration Act and Nationality Act (INA).
Qualifying for United States Citizenship
Only lawful permanent residents can qualify to naturalize and become United States citizens. To become a lawful permanent resident, you must first procure a green card. However, you cannot begin the naturalization process immediately after securing your green card.
If you wish to apply for naturalization, you must first undergo a mandatory waiting period. The waiting period “starts” automatically as soon as you receive your green card and become a lawful permanent resident. The amount of time you must wait depends on how you obtained your green card and other situational factors.
Green Card Through Marriage
If you acquired your green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen, you can begin the naturalization process after 3 years of continuous presence in the country. You must also accumulate at least 1.5 years (or 18 months) of physical presence during that time.
Green Card Through Employment
If you procured your green card through most other means (such as employment-based immigration), you must accrue 5 years of continuous presence before you can apply for naturalization. You must also accumulate at least 2.5 years (or 30 months) of physical presence in that time.
Continuous presence involves maintaining a primary residence in the United States. You can disrupt continuous presence by traveling outside the country for a period longer than six months at any one time.
Physical preference refers to the number of days you spend physically located inside the country. You must stay within the United States for at least half of your mandatory waiting period.
In addition to meeting continuous and physical presence requirements, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be a resident of the state from which you are applying for at least 3 months prior to submitting your application materials
- Be willing to serve in the U.S. military (or perform civilian service) if called upon
- Register for the Selective Service System if you are male and lived in the country between the ages of 18 and 25
- Demonstrate “good moral character”
You will generally be considered to have “good moral character” if you have not been convicted of certain types of violent, fraud-related, or drug-related crimes. Our Chicago citizenship attorney can assess your eligibility and work to ensure you meet all requirements before applying for naturalization.
The Naturalization Process
Once you meet all eligibility requirements, you can begin the process of becoming a permanent U.S. citizen. Prospective citizens can often get a head start by submitting their Application for Naturalization in the 90-day window before their mandatory waiting periods conclude. After receiving your application, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will schedule a biometrics appointment at your local USCIS office. This involves the collection of your fingerprints and the initiation of a background check.
Next comes what can be a substantial waiting period. Many naturalization applicants will wait at least 14 months before hearing from USCIS. The extent of this wait can vary with the case backlog.
Eventually, USCIS will schedule an in-person interview at your local field office. The citizenship exam will be conducted at this meeting. While tests of any kind can be stressful, it is important to understand that the naturalization exam is not designed to be especially difficult.
The citizenship exam involves the following components:
- English Language Speaking Test. The entirety of the in-person interview will be conducted in English, and you will be asked to verify elements of your application. You will most likely pass this component of the exam if you are able to adequately respond to the USCIS officer’s questions in English.
- English Language Writing Test. The USCIS officer will speak three separate sentences aloud in English. You must correctly transcribe one of the spoken sentences to pass.
- English Language Reading Test. The USCIS officer will provide you with three sentences written in English. You must verbally read one of these sentences to pass.
- Civics Test. You will be given 10 questions (out of a possible 100, all of which can be studied in advance) that cover subjects related to U.S. history and government. You must correctly answer at least 6 of the 10 questions to pass. If you are at least 65 years old, the 10 questions you receive will come from a smaller pool of only 20 questions.
You must pass all portions of the exam to become a U.S. citizen. If you do not pass any single component of the test, you will have a second opportunity to try again at a later date. Our team can help you study and prepare for the exam. We can also help you exercise any available examination exceptions if you have a qualifying disability or are an older applicant that has lived in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for a substantial amount of time.
The USCIS officer will approve your naturalization application if they are satisfied with your interview answers and you pass all components of the citizenship exam. You must take the Oath of Allegiance at a scheduled ceremony before you officially become a citizen.
As a naturalized citizen, you can:
- Run for elected office
- Apply for public sector jobs
- Secure U.S. citizenship for new children
- Sponsor relatives for green cards
- Procure additional federal benefits
- Travel with a U.S. passport
Our Chicago citizenship lawyer at Aparicio Immigration Law can provide the capable and comprehensive guidance you need when navigating the naturalization process. We can assist you with your application materials, manage communications with USCIS, and help you prepare for the citizenship exam. We are invested in your success and are ready to do everything we can to help you efficiently become a U.S. citizen.
We Can Relate to Your ExperienceHaving gone through the immigration process himself, Attorney Aparicio has first-hand experience to help understand your situation.
We Have a Record that Speaks for ItselfWith many victorious cases taken to court and hundreds of happy reviews from clients, our team proudly works hard to earn its good reputation.
We are LocalOur office is located less than a mile from Chicago Immigration Court, allowing us to very conveniently help all clients throughout Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
Spanish Speaking Services AvailableWith a staff that speaks English and Spanish fluently, our team makes sure all communication with clients is always direct and always clear.
Take advantage of an initial consultation with our team.