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Will you have difficulty qualifying for citizenship?

No matter how long you lived in Georgia as a permanent resident, you may have felt there was something missing. If that missing element was your U.S. citizenship, you were likely excited when enough time had passed to qualify you to begin taking steps toward naturalization.

As a naturalized citizen of the United States, you will enjoy all the freedoms and rights that other citizens share, such as the right to vote in elections, apply for federal jobs and sponsor family members who wish to become permanent residents of the U.S. The requirements for naturalization are arduous, including learning English and understanding the basics of U.S. government. Even if you meet these requirements, several issues could prevent you from achieving citizenship.

Paying what you owe

Having debt is not usually a problem if you want to apply for U.S. citizenship. It only becomes a problem if you owe back taxes or child support. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agents will investigate whether you have paid the taxes you owe the federal government since you obtained your green card. If they discover you are delinquent, they have the right to deny you citizenship.

USCIS does make exceptions if they find evidence that you are making an effort to repay what you owe, so it is wise to contact the IRS if you are behind on your taxes. The same is true for court-ordered child support. If you can explain why you are behind and show that it is not a willful refusal to pay, USCIS may consider your application despite your delinquent child support. As with tax issues, working to resolve your late child support is in your best interests.

Your moral character

If you are a man and have held your green card since you were between 18 and 26, you are required to register with Selective Service. This demonstrates your willingness to defend the United States and its Constitution. When you apply for citizenship, you will be asked to show your Selective Service number. Failing to register can greatly damage your chances of acceptance for naturalization.

Other violations of the law may not automatically disqualify you, but they may if they occurred within the past five years. Additionally, some crimes permanently bar you from eligibility for naturalization. These include:

  • Aggravated felonies, such as murder or other crimes that cause harm to others
  • Lying on your naturalization application

Part of your application is documentation of any criminal record. Failing to reveal these or other issues may permanently bar you from citizenship. You may find that seeking legal guidance for these and other factors may eliminate some of the concerns you have about the naturalization process.

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