The Office of Immigration Statistics recently released information on the foreign nationals aged 18 years and older who naturalized in 2014.
The number of naturalizations decreased to 653,416 from 779,929 in 2013 and 757,434 in 2012. The Philippines remained as the third leading country of birth of the new citizens (34,591). Mexico with 94,889 was first followed by India with 37,854 and People’s Republic of China was 4th with 30,284.
Asia was the top regional origin (35.7%) followed by North America (34.1%) and Europe (10.9%). Asia has been the top region in most recent years since 1976.
74% of all persons naturalizing resided in the following states: California, Florida, New York, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia, Georgia and Pennsylvania. California had 140,234 followed by Florida (79,637) and New York (77,717).
Naturalization is the process of becoming a US citizen after fulfilling the requirements set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). A naturalized US citizen may vote, get a position in federal government, participate in federal programs, and obtain a US passport and bring family members to immigrate to the United States.
To be eligible for naturalization, one must be at least 18 years old, be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), maintain continuous residence in the United States for at least five years, and be physically present in the US for at least 30 months before filing a Form N-400 Application for Naturalization.
Trips of one year or longer break the continuous residence requirement and the applicant must complete a new period of residence after coming back to the US. On the other hand, trips of more than six months to less than one year are presumed to break the continuity of residence, but this presumption can be rebutted with evidence that the applicant did not abandon permanent residence in the US. This evidence may include the filing of US tax returns, presence of family ties in the US and maintaining a home in the US.
The applicant must also present proof of residence for at least three months in the state where the application for naturalization is filed.
Additional requirements include the ability to speak, read and write in English; knowledge of US government and; and possession of good moral character. This is measured by “standard of the community” and evaluations are made on a case-to-case basis. Certain activities may disqualify a person from complying with this requirement such as involvement in crimes of moral turpitude (like gambling, habitual drunkenness or prostitution) violation of drug laws, willful failure to support dependents and crimes involving fraud, harm to persons or damage to property. Crimes involving murder or other aggravated felonies will ultimately disqualify one from being naturalized.
Special provisions in the INA exempt certain applicants from some of these general requirements. For instance, spouses and children of US citizen only require three years of continuous residence instead of five. If you have any physical impairment, you can also be exempted from the civics and English exams. Likewise, you can be exempted from the English test if you are at least 50 years old and have resided in the US as a permanent resident for a period totaling at least 20 years or if you are 55 years old and have resided for at least 15 years.
(Editor’s Note: REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For more information, log on to www.seguritan.com or call 212-695-5281.)