How to Begin the Immigration Process
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Montana Thompson with Phillips Law Group.
Immigration to the United States can be a daunting and complicated process, but many people find that becoming a United States citizen is well worth the hassle. The immigration process has many steps, but beginning the process is arguably the most important part. If you run into any difficulties that might complicate the immigration process, or if you simply want help from the start of the process, reach out to an immigration attorney. These attorneys are well-versed in the laws that might otherwise be difficult to understand and know the immigration process inside and out.
To begin the immigration process, a person must first meet eligibility requirements including the following:
- Legal age: To apply for citizenship, a person must be 18 years of age or older.
- Ability to read, write, and speak basic English: A person must be able to prove that they can read, write, and speak basic English before applying for citizenship.
- Proof of good moral character: This could refer to supplying evidence such as having no criminal record, a letter from a religious institution, character witnesses, etc.
- Sponsorship: In many cases, a person may need a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to file the initial petition on their behalf.
The basic steps to beginning the immigration process are as follows:
- Apply for a Green (Permanent Resident Card) Card. In order to apply for a Green Card, applicants will need to fill out at least two forms; an immigrant petition as well as a Green Card application (Form I-458). In most cases, a sponsor will need to file the immigrant petition on the filer’s behalf.
- Keep the Green Card for at least five years. To establish citizenship, a permanent resident must have a Green Card for at least five years unless they are filing as the spouse of a citizen, in which case it is three years. If the card has expired or is going to expire within six months of the final application, the Green Card will first need to be renewed.
- Undergo the final 10-step naturalization process. This process includes filling out and submitting form N-400, taking a naturalization test on subjects such as U.S. history and civics, and undergoing a personal interview.
This is a timely process but fairly straightforward in many cases. However, there are a variety of factors that could complicate this otherwise simple process. If you have already been denied a visa, issued a deportation order, or have submitted an incomplete application, completing the immigration process can be extremely difficult.
It may be beneficial to acquire the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney.
For any of the issues discussed above, and for issues such as adjusting immigration status or establishing a valid U.S. marriage, a filer will likely find that having an immigration attorney on their side makes all the difference. Immigration laws can be difficult to understand in the best of scenarios, when other factors are complicating the process it can feel almost impossible.
Additionally, due to the long waiting periods which occur during much of the immigration process, it is particularly important to submit the necessary material correctly the first time and to avoid any potential pitfalls which could stand in the way of a smooth transition to citizenship. To learn more about the immigration process or for help becoming a U.S. citizen, reach out to an experienced immigration attorney.