Advantages to becoming a U.S. citizen, and the process and requirements for doing so.
Advantages of citizenship
US citizenship is one of the most important steps that you can take to ensure a secure future for you and your family. Once you become a US citizen, unless you lied or falsified information to do so, your citizenship can never be taken away without your consent. You can never be deported, you'll know that you're a full member of our nation, and you can shape the country's future by voting.
The Process of Becoming a Citizen
Generally speaking, in order to become a United States citizen, you have to have lived in the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident ("green card" holder) for 5 years and have been a person of "good moral character" (this basically means that you don't have a criminal record, have paid your taxes, etc). You file a form from the USCIS (on of the federal government immigration agencies) called the N-400 that contains dozens of detailed and sometimes confusing questions, pay a fee (currently $680 with the cost for background check fingerprints included), and then go to take the citizenship test at an interview with a USCIS office. However, an immigrants who got his/her green card by marrying a United States citizen can apply to naturalize (become citizens) after only 3 years as a Permanent Resident. And a military member can in many cases apply for citizenship immediately, with no wait time (and an exemption from the high government filing fees).
Pitfalls -- Issues to Watch For
The citizenship process can be confusing, however. Figuring out how to answer many of the questions on the N-400 form, and making sure to provide the correct supporting documentation, can be intimidating. Particularly if you have some criminal history in your past (even relatively minor things like traffic cases), or if you have spent a significant amount of time outside of the country since getting your green card, you should definitely consult with an immigration lawyer instead of trying it yourself. Unfortunately, I've seen too many people file the N-400 on their own who wind up facing a deportation case - a situation that could have been avoided if they would have consulted with an attorney.
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