are many laws governing the admission and naturalization of
non-citizens into the United States. The Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS) is the federal agency charged
with administering and enforcing the immigration laws. The
INS has a district office located in Newark at the Federal
Rodino Building, 970 Broad Street. Office hours are from 8
a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The
line in front of the INS forms early, so plan to arrive
prior to the 8 a.m. opening. This office processes all
applications including applications for naturalization as an
American citizen, immigrant visa petitions and work
authorization. Recent laws have restricted benefits that are
available to legal aliens. These are discussed in the
chapters on Health and Basic Needs.
The following information outlines
the basic requirements and procedures for obtaining U.S.
citizenship and for assisting family members in obtaining a
visa to enter the United States. However, this information
is general in nature, and you will need to contact the INS
office in Newark to obtain the proper form(s) to file and to
learn the exact fees and rules that apply to your particular
States citizens have rights and privileges not available to
non-citizens. These benefits include the right
to vote, the right to hold
public office, access to certain employment and medical
services, the right to travel without potential reentry
problems, and an absolute defense against deportation. In
addition, the immigration laws give special benefits to
certain relatives of U.S. citizens.
are three ways to acquire citizenship in the United
- All persons born in the
United States or its possessions are U.S. citizens.
- A person may acquire
citizenship when born outside the United States if one
parent is a U.S. citizen and that parent resided in the
United States prior to the persons birth abroad.
- A person may immigrate to
the United States and (upon fulfillment of the
eligibility requirements), become a citizen by
Guidelines for Becoming a
by which persons may obtain citizen status is called
naturalization. Naturalization is available to you if you
were admitted to the United States as an immigrant and have
resided continuously in the United States for five years, or
three years if married to a U.S. citizen. Absence from the
United States for up to six months does not affect the
continuity of your residence.
As an applicant for naturalization
you must demonstrate the following things:
- That you were lawfully
admitted into the United States for permanent residence.
Your Alien Registration Receipt Card (green card) is
proof of this.
- That you have resided in
the United States for five years. If you are married to a
U.S. citizen, you need only have resided in the United
States for three years and have been physically present
in the United States for at least one and a half years
during the three year period.
- You must be at least 18
years of age.
- You must pass an English
literacy test, which demonstrates your ability to read,
write and speak words of ordinary English usage.
- You must pass a test on the
basic history and principles of government of the United
States. You can obtain materials from the INS office to
study for the English and history/government tests.
- You must demonstrate "good
moral character" (not have been convicted of a serious
crime during your residency period, such as drug
trafficking or a crime of violence); and
- You must tell the INS
officer who interviews you that you believe in the
principles of the United States Constitution and that you
intend to obey the law.
What to Do
The first step in
seeking naturalization is to file an application for
naturalization with the INS office in Newark. You must have
resided in New Jersey for three months to qualify. The
application (Form N-400) consists of several pages on which
you must provide background information regarding family
history, periods of residence in the United States and the
names of witnesses who will support your petition for
naturalization. You must also submit three sets of
fingerprints and your alien registration number. The INS is
required to act on your application within 120 days of the
Next, you will be examined by an
employee of the INS. The examination covers the requirements
listed above. The employee who examines you will decide
whether to grant or deny your application, and she/he must
give you the reasons for the decision. The INS employee must
give you a decision within 120 days after your examination.
If your application for
naturalization is approved, a date will be scheduled for you
to return and take an oath of allegiance to the United
States. At the oath ceremony you will have to relinquish
your green card. In exchange, you will receive your
certificate of naturalization, which is proof of your
Once you are a citizen, you can apply
for citizenship for your children by filing an application
on Form N-400 and paying the required fee. Upon approval of
the application by the INS, your children automatically
become citizens of the United States.
If your application for
naturalization is denied, you can request a second hearing.
You must file your request with the INS within 30 days after
receiving the denial. The INS is then required to schedule a
review hearing within 180 days from the date on which your
appeal is filed. The hearing is tape recorded or videotaped
for purposes of judicial review.
If your application is denied a
second time or the INS employee failed to give you a
decision within 120 days of your examination, you are
entitled to file a petition for review in federal district
court. It would be advisable to obtain a qualified attorney
to assist you with your appeal.