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Dispelling Myths About Citizenship

Immigration Law Center Inc. Nov. 16, 2023

If your goal is to immigrate to the United States or begin the citizenship process as a green card holder, you have likely read and heard a lot of conflicting information about becoming a U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding the citizenship process that prevent aspiring immigrants from making informed and intelligent decisions on their journey to becoming U.S. citizens.  

Our immigration law team at Immigration Law Center Inc. offers personalized legal guidance and reliable advocacy in all matters related to citizenship and naturalization. We guide clients through all the complicated procedures involved in the citizenship application. Our law firm has offices in Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama.  

Common Myths About Citizenship

You can find a lot of misleading information about citizenship online, not to mention that many immigrants themselves have false assumptions about the process and spread them in immigration forums and on social media. Below are some of the most common myths about citizenship and why they are wrong. 

Myth #1: Citizenship and permanent residency is essentially the same thing

Contrary to popular belief, citizenship is different from permanent residency. A citizen is granted rights, privileges, and protections within the United States. A permanent resident, on the other hand, is permitted to reside in the U.S. with certain conditions they must adhere to. Unlike permanent residents, citizens are not subject to deportation and can vote in local, state, and national elections. However, a permanent resident – also known as a green card holder – can obtain citizenship to enjoy all the rights, privileges, and protections available to U.S. citizens.  

Myth #2: You automatically become a U.S. citizen if you are married to one

It is a common misconception that being married to a citizen automatically makes you a citizen, too. In fact, the mere fact that you are married to a U.S. citizen does not automatically make you eligible for citizenship. However, marriage to a U.S. citizen can make an immigrant eligible for lawful permanent residency and naturalization after living with a U.S. citizen spouse for three years.  

Myth #3: There is nothing I can do if my citizenship application is denied

The denial of your application should not shatter your hopes of living the American dream. Many immigrants who file a citizenship application give up when their application is denied because they do not realize that they have the option of appealing the denial. If your citizenship application is denied, you have 30 days to request a hearing with another immigration officer. Alternatively, you can submit a new naturalization application or file a Motion to Reopen. Consult with an immigration law attorney to discuss your best course of action after the denial of your citizenship application.  

Myth #4: I cannot get deported if my children are U.S. citizens

Just because you have children who are U.S. citizens does not mean you cannot be deported under any circumstances. However, the fact that your children are U.S. citizens could play a role in helping you avoid getting deported. If you are subject to removal proceedings, your attorney could help argue that deportation would cause an undue hardship on your family.  

Myth #5: Physical presence and continuous residence are the same thing

The terms “physical presence” and “continuous residence” are both used when determining a person’s eligibility for U.S. citizenship. While these two terms may sound similar, they have different meanings. Green card holders in the United States must demonstrate evidence of at least five years of continuous residence in the country to initiate the naturalization process. The continuous residence requirement is reduced to three years if the green card holder is married to a U.S. citizen.  

Physical presence, on the other hand, refers to the actual time the applicant was physically present in the U.S. While any trips abroad are included when calculating continuous residence, any travel outside the country is excluded when determining physical presence.  

Myth #6: You cannot become a U.S. citizen if you have a criminal conviction

While having a criminal record can complicate matters when trying to obtain U.S. citizenship, it does not completely disqualify you unless your conviction is for murder or any aggravated felony. The government will consider the seriousness of the offense and examine your good moral character when evaluating your application for U.S. citizenship.  

Myth #7: Stepchildren qualify for U.S. citizenship the same way children do

False. Stepchildren are not eligible for U.S. citizenship through their U.S. citizen stepparent. While the stepparent can legally adopt the stepchild for automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship, adopted children must meet certain eligibility requirements, such as being legally adopted under the age of 16 years. A skilled attorney can guide you through the acquisition of U.S. citizenship for your adopted children.  

Your Rights Matter—Use Them.

Becoming a U.S. citizen may feel like a daunting and intimidating task. U.S. immigration laws are subject to changes, not to mention that there are many myths surrounding citizenship. Our attorney at Immigration Law Center Inc. is aware of the challenges you may face on your journey to U.S. citizenship. Reach out to our office and schedule a consultation so we can enlighten you about your situation and help you make informed and educated decisions.