201602231513494228By Attorneys Rafael Torres, III & Nancy E. Miller

Election season is upon us! There are estimates that over 8 million people here in the United States are eligible to embark upon the naturalization process to become citizens and, if they submit their applications in the very near future, may be able to participate in the upcoming election in November of this year. This year, citizens of the United States will have the opportunity to select the next President – the person who will lead us for the next 4 years.  Citizens from various states, including California, will also have the opportunity to decide who will represent them in the Senate and the House of Representatives.  And, of course, as is usually the case in California, citizens who reside in this state will be asked to weigh in on many, many propositions.

The ability to participate in the election of a United States President (and a member of the Senate) is incredibly powerful. Article Two of the United States Constitution imbues the power of appointing Justices to the United States Supreme Court to the President of the United States. A presidential nomination is then confirmed by the Senate. As we are seeing, which party controls the Senate can have a tremendous impact on when, or if, a presidential nominee is voted upon.

As the President normally nominates Justices in line with their own ideologies, and as Justices serve for life, the impact of a citizen’s vote for a particular presidential candidate can be felt many years after their elected President leaves office. Justice Scalia, whose death resulted in the current vacancy on the bench, was appointed over 25 years ago. Several presidents of both parties have lived in the White House since he first took his seat on the Supreme Court. It is not unreasonable to expect his replacement to sit on the Court for a similar length of time.

Most people who come to the United States do so because they want to become full-fledged contributing members of the American society. What better way to do that than to become a citizen. But that does not happen automatically or by magic. One has to be statutorily eligible and has to apply.

In general, the following individuals are eligible to naturalize and become citizens of the United States. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) who are over the age of eighteen (18), who have been continuous residents for five (5) years after retaining Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) Status, and who can meet the good moral character requirement are generally able to apply for naturalization. It should be noted that one who committed a misrepresentation to get a green card may still be able to naturalize. They may be eligible for various waivers that will validate their green card from the time it was initially issued.  This will allow them to apply for naturalization as soon as the waiver is granted. Others who have been convicted of various crimes may find that changes in law have resulted in the removal of the dreaded aggravated felony bars so they can now apply to naturalize.

Special consideration is also given to those LPRs who are married to, and residing with, their United States Citizen spouses. They are eligible to apply for naturalization three (3) years after obtaining lawful resident status.

There are special considerations given to those LPRs or non-LPRS who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States. In fact, some non-LPRs who have served in a time of conflict can get citizenship without obtaining a green card.

In addition, certain individuals born outside the United States may be able to acquire United States citizenship based on their birth to one or both parents who are citizens of the United States.

Of course, there are many more reasons to apply for U.S. citizenship. A citizen can petition for their married children, for their parents and for their siblings. Petitions from U.S. citizens for spouses and children under the age of 21 have no numerical limitation in the number of visas issued per year and that lack of visa-backlog can keep families together or reunite them in a short time. At this time, only U.S. citizens can be the qualifying relative for the provisional waiver that allows persons to get their unlawful presence waiver approved before they leave to consular process.

Those people who are potentially eligible to become citizens of the United States and who would like to participate in this historic election should consult with an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney to evaluate their eligibility to get that treasured U.S. citizenship status.

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