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Frequently Asked Questions

Marriage and Family-Based Permanent Residency

Q. I am a citizen of another country and I have married a US citizen, how long will it take for me to get my green card?
A. In Philadelphia, recent experience as of November, 2007, suggests that if your case is filed as a one-step adjustment of status, it can be completed in less than one year.

Q. I am a citizen of another country and I came to the US using a visa but I overstayed the period for which I was admitted. I am now married to a US Citizen and my spouse and I want to begin a case so I can become a permanent resident. Can I still apply without leaving the United States?

A. Yes. So long as you are the immediate relative (meaning the spouse, child under 21, or parent) of a US citizen, the fact that you have come with a visa and overstayed will not prevent you from being granted permanent resident status without leaving the United States.

Q. I am a citizen of another country and I came to the US undocumented (crossed the border illegally). I am now married to a US Citizen and my spouse and I want to begin a case so I can become a permanent resident. Can I still apply without leaving the United States?

A. No. Unless your spouse (or other immediate relative) filed a petition prior to April 2001, you are ineligible to adjust status inside the United States. You can be sponsored by your relative but you would need to leave the United States to apply for an immigrant visa and a waiver at the United States embassy in your country of origin. You would have to remain in your country for at least 6 months to one year while waiting for a decision on your waiver application. If the waiver is denied you will be unable to return to the United States (for 3 or 10 years in most cases). The decision whether to attempt such a case must be made together with an immigration attorney after careful consideration of the facts of your personal situation.

Naturalization and Citizenship

Q. I have been a permanent resident for several years and I want to apply for US citizenship, however I have a minor criminal charge in my background from many years ago. Will it affect my chances of becoming a US citizen?

A. USCIS looks at the five-year period just before you file your application for naturalization. If the charge is minor and occurred outside the five-year window there is a good chance that it will not lead to denial of your application; however it is very important to consult with immigration lawyer so he or she may determine specifically what consequences the criminal conviction may have on your naturalization case after gathering all of the facts. If there is evidence within the five-year period that suggests that an applicant lacks good moral character, USCIS is permitted by statue and regulation to look behind the five-year window in order to make a determination of whether or not the applicant possesses good moral character. Other factors besides criminal history which are considered in determining whether an applicant possesses good moral character include evidence of support of minor children, a history of paying all required taxes, and absence of involvement in such things as drug use, illegal gambling, giving false testimony for immigration benefits, making false claims to US citizenship or illegally voting.

Q. I have a green card that has expired and I want to apply for US citizenship. Do I have to renew my green card before applying?

A. Yes. It may seem puzzling that you are expected to get a new green card when you will simply turn it in on the day of the that you become a citizen, nevertheless at the present time, USCIS requires applicants to renew their green cards before applying for citizenship if the green card will expire within six months before the date you will file your application for naturalization.

Q. When I become a US citizen will I lose the citizenship of my country of origin?

A. It depends on the laws of your country of origin. Many countries, including most European countries, permit dual citizenship. There are also a few notable examples of countries such as India where acquisition of US or other foreign citizenship leads to loss of nationality. Check with a passport officer at an embassy or consulate of your country of origin for further information.