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In order to naturalize as a citizen of the United States, the initial requirement for all applicants is to be a Permanent Resident (i.e. have a Green Card). Depending on your situation, you’ll need to have been a permanent resident for at least three to five years prior to applying for citizenship. In addition, you must be at least 18 years old when you file your naturalization application; be able to speak, read and write basic English; and be a person of good moral character. For many of the requirements, certain exceptions apply and it’s useful to consult with an attorney near you to see whether you qualify for requirement exemptions.
There are a variety of methods for obtaining a Green Card, including through marriage or employment. A Green Card permits an individual the right to permanent residency in the United States. Although marriage to a U.S. citizen is a common means of obtaining a Green Card, there are various other methods such as a family member petitioning on your behalf, seeking asylum or residency as a refugee, an employer bringing you to this country for work, etc. An attorney can help determine whether you meet eligibility criteria and guide you through the arcane application procedures of immigration law.
In the United States, there are two USCIS service centers which process the I-140 immigration form. The time it takes to process will vary slightly depending on the service center. However, in general, the form takes an average of six months to process. Premium processing is a service offered by USCIS which guarantees processing of your I-140 within two weeks. This service requires an additional fee of over $1200. If USCIS is unable to process your form within 2 weeks, it will refund your money and continue with expedited processing. An immigration attorney will be able to provide you with much more specific information and can advise you on the best course of action with regards to filing your I-140.
During the Green Card application process, which can be lengthy, it is critical that you maintain lawful immigration status. Under certain circumstances, you can request an extension of your H-1B status in one-year increments while your Green Card application is being processed. H-1B extension processing time usually averages around 2-3 months although USCIS doesn’t offer any time guarantees. Working with an attorney to ensure timely and proper filing while remaining in legal immigration compliance is crucial to a successful adjustment of your status.
Consider the following:
Comfort Level - Are you comfortable telling the lawyer personal information? Does the lawyer seem interested in solving your problem?
Credentials - How long has the lawyer been in practice? Has the lawyer worked on other cases similar to yours?
Cost - How are the lawyer's fees structured - hourly or flat fee? Can the lawyer estimate the cost of your case?
City - Is the lawyer's office conveniently located near you?