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Naturalization – Do You Want To Vote In The Next U.S. Presidential Election?

Michele M. Vakili

Do you want to vote in the next U.S. Presidential election?

If your answer is “yes”, and you are not a U.S. citizen you must first go through the process of “Naturalization” with the U.S. Immigration Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  The next election is in November 2008, and although that may seem far off, the naturalization process can take approximately 6 months – 1year to complete and longer if unusual issues arise.

In order to apply to become a U.S. citizen, first one must be a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the U.S.  Generally, you must have acquired a minimum of 5 years as a LPR before filing with USICS.  If however, you obtained your LPR status through marriage to a U.S. citizen, you may apply for your U.S. citizenship after 3 years of acquiring LPR status.    

In addition to the above, the general requirements for naturalization include:
•    a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
•    an ability to read, write, and speak English;
•    a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government; and
•    good moral character.

One of the common issues that arise when applying for naturalization involves continuous residence and physical presence.  This means that an applicant must not have had a single absence from the United States of more than one year.  Also, absences of more than six months but less than one year outside of the U.S. will also disrupt one’s continuous residence unless the applicant can show extenuating circumstances. Continuous residence and physical presence can be tricky, so if the applicant travels extensively, he/she should carefully review the physical presence requirements prior to filing the application for naturalization.
In addition to the above, all applicants for naturalization must be able to read, write, speak, and understand the English language. There are however, exceptions to this rule, such as if the applicant has been an LPR for 15 years or more and meets certain age requirements, he/she may need not take the English portion of the exam.

Finally, there is a New Naturalization Pilot Program in Boston.  The idea to redesign the naturalization test came about due to concerns that the current portion of the examination did not provide a meaningful assessment of an applicant’s understanding of U.S. history and government. 

It is our understanding that the Pilot Program will be held in ten cities across the country, including Boston, which began this January 2007 and will conclude when approximately 5,000 applicants have taken the test.  When the goal of testing 5,000 applicants with the pilot test has been reached, the results of the test will be analyzed along with other data about the applicants, such as country of origin and age.  Following the pilot program and the finalization of the new test in the spring/summer, there will be a one-year period to educate people in the community.  During this period, the pilot program cities will return to the old test questions.

Should an applicant fail the pilot test program, he/she can immediately take the old test or reschedule an appointment to take the old test, and they will only have to take the portion of the test that they failed.  Should they fail again, they will still have a second chance to take the old test.  

Further information regarding the Pilot Program may be found at the at USCIS website. www.cis.gov.

So if you are interested in pursing your application for naturalization and want to vote in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, now is the time to apply!

Should you have any questions about the process of naturalization, please call the law office of Vakili Karimi LLC for a consultation at (617) 292-3636.

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