Many individuals in the U.S. join the military every year as part of their path towards U.S. citizenship. But veteran or not, it is never a good idea to let your green card expire. Although your legal permanent residence has not ended, if you travel outside of the United States, you may not be able to return. You could also run into trouble if you try to apply for a new job and you may be denied unemployment benefits or other forms of social assistance. To avoid touting an expired green card around in your pocket, you should apply for a new one six months prior to your current card expiration date. Before you go to the trouble of renewing your green card you may want to consider applying for citizenship.
Requirements for Citizenship
An expired green card will not impede you from becoming a citizen. You can apply for citizenship if you have lived in the states for at least five years and you must have physically lived in the country for at least half of that time. You should also have established residency in the community where you intend to apply for citizenship. That means you should live in the same place for at least three months.
You should be over the age of 18 and it could not hurt if you serve in the U.S. Military. It is also important to learn to speak English. You will have to pass a written citizenship test that is about 100 questions long. You will also be fingerprinted when you go to your meeting.
The Citizenship Process
When you decide you want to become an American, you will want to fill out an application form online. They will need two easy to recognize photographs of you. They will want you to submit identifying documentation such as your passport ID, birth certificate, and Green Card. If you are married, they are likely to want a copy of your marriage license. You will need to provide a credit card so that you can pay the application fee.
You will have to make an appointment with the USCIS where you will be fingerprinted. A few months after that you will receive an interview and test date. You should bring all of your documentation to your interview with you. You will then be given your English test and your citizenship test.
After you have completed all of your paperwork and tests, you should receive a decision about your citizenship. If you are approved, you will be given a citizenship ceremony date. before the ceremony, you will answer a few questions about what you have been up to since taking the test. You will then take an oath of allegiance and return your green card.
Finding an Attorney
From start to finish, the process of becoming an American citizen takes about 8 months. Collecting the paperwork and filling out the necessary paperwork can be a challenging and exacting task. It is a good idea to find an immigration attorney to represent you and assist you with the process.
The attorney you select should have many years of experience in immigration law and they should be able to provide you with references from former clients. You can find more information here: fl-ilc.com.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal on August 30, 2020.