Immigrant Teens: Things to Know Before Applying for Citizenship

If you are an immigrant with permanent resident status in the US, you may qualify for citizenship by naturalization. Naturalization is the process through which people who were born outside the United States become US citizens. It is open to green card holders who meet certain requirements. But before filing an application, there are some important things you must know about the process.

Eligibility Requirements

According to the United Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you must be at least 18 years of age at the time of your application. This means many teenagers are eligible provided they meet other requirements. If you are under 18, you may still become a citizen through derivative citizenship available to minors after one or both parents become a US citizens.

In addition to the age requirement, you must be a green card holder and have continuous physical presence and residence in the US. According to Immigration Advice Service, you must have been a permanent resident for at least five years at the time of your application. Those who become permanent residents through marriage may be eligible after three years. The ability to read, speak and write basic English, demonstration of good character and knowledge of US history and government are other key criteria. You must also be willing to take Oath of Allegiance.

Check If Your Home Country Allows Dual Citizenship

Dual citizenship means being a citizen of two different countries at the same time. It has a lot of advantages, as you enjoy the benefits attached to each nationality. Many foreign-born US citizens have dual citizenship and carry two passports. Dual citizenship can prove very advantageous for travel purposes, property ownership, and cultural education, as you can easily maintain ties to your country of birth.

However, not all countries allow dual citizenship for their citizens. If you are from places like Japan, the Netherlands, Nepal, Myanmar, China, and Indonesia, you may be unable to enjoy the luxury of dual passports. Some of these countries require their nationals to relinquish their citizenship if they must acquire another country’s citizenship. Some also have conditions for dual citizenship.

For instance, according to Dutch law, the only way to maintain dual citizenship is if you are a citizen of another country and you marry a Dutch citizen or you are a refugee. If you are from Indonesia, you may have dual citizenship while you are still under 18. But once you turn 18, you must choose between your Indonesia citizenship and the acquired one. Citizenship laws can be murky and vary from one country to another. Knowing what the law says will help you make the right decision and avoid unnecessary delays in your US citizenship application.

Weigh the Pro and Cons of Dual Citizenship

While dual citizenship comes with many benefits, it has some disadvantages. This is why some people maintain one nationality even when they have the means to obtain a second passport. The downsides of dual citizenship sometimes include double tax burden, dual obligations, and barriers to some types of employment. For instance, the US imposes taxes on its citizens anywhere they are in the world. This may lead to double taxation for people. Also, if you are a dual national seeking to work in a profession that requires a security clearance in the US or involves access to classified information, having dual citizenship could make you ineligible for such employment. That said, there are still many benefits to derive from dual citizenship, and the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for many people. It’s all about doing your due diligence and choosing what works for you.

Prepare for Citizenship Test

If after all your research, you remain convinced that US citizenship is a thing for you, it is time to start preparing. As part of the naturalization process, you must pass an interview and test. During the interview, you will answer questions about your background and application. You will also attempt a two-part test – the English test and the civic test. The English test is designed to evaluate your knowledge of the English language, including the ability to speak, write and read basic English. The civic part will test your knowledge of the American government and history. To make the test easy, there are various tools available for applicants. You can find them on USCIS websites and other immigration/citizenship-related websites. Early preparation will help you ace the test and the interview.

Work with an Immigration Lawyer

The US citizenship application may appear simple on paper; it involves various processes and documentation that may prove cumbersome. This is where experts in citizenship and immigration can help. An immigration lawyer will help you review your current status to determine if you qualify for a citizenship application. They will also help in filing and processing the forms and prepare you for the interview and test. All this will significantly improve your chances of approval and ensure you obtain your US citizenship in real time.

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