If you are considering an application for US citizenship, there are a few reasons why you may want to first consult with a naturalization attorney.
1. Eligibility Questions
It's important that you verify your eligibility for naturalization before you turn in any official paperwork. At a minimum, this typically means that you have met permanent residency requirements, character requirements, and resided in the US for the prescribed amount of time. Although applying prematurely isn't likely to damage your standing as a permanent resident, it is costly so it is best to first make sure you are eligible.
2. Process Navigation
The paperwork, interviews, and overall process of naturalization can sometimes be overwhelming. This is especially true if you are still working on language fluency. An immigration attorney can help you navigate the process so you don't miss any steps. You will also be assured that all of the paperwork is turned in and that you are properly prepared for the final interviews necessary to complete the process.
3. Prior Arrests or Convictions
A prior arrest or conviction doesn't automatically make you ineligible for naturalization, but it can make it harder. Depending on the crime and circumstances, it can also trigger a deportation process. Your lawyer can help you determine whether the risk is worth it, as well as help you factually present your case in a manner that is more likely to benefit your desire for citizenship.
4. Debts and Grievances
Certain debts can prevent or at least delay the naturalization process. Past due child support or alimony, for example, can make one ineligible for citizenship, at least until the debt is repaid and good faith has been shown that all future payments will be made as legally required. Past due income taxes are another example of debts that can compromise naturalization. The good news is that a working repayment plan can often mitigate these issues, but you may need the help of a lawyer to make sure everything is set up and presented properly.
5. Citizenship Questions
In some cases, naturalization may not even be necessary. Not every citizen is made aware that they have achieved full citizenship. Often this is due to legacy citizenship. For example, if you were born in the United States to foreign-born parents, you may already be a citizen depending on the circumstances — especially if one or both of your parents was later naturalized. The same is true if you were born overseas to at least one parent of US citizenship, even if that parent had dual citizenship or registered you as a citizen of the other country.
Contact a naturalization attorney for more information.