Jamaica Magazine

Frequently Asked Questions regarding acquiring U.S Citizenship

Recently I have received an influx of questions regarding acquiring U.S. Citizenship in the United States. These inquiries have come mostly from permanent residents who are living in the United States and who now wish to acquire U.S. citizenship to protect their immigration status and to assist their family members in acquiring legal status. In this article I will provide a general answer to some of the concerns that I have received regarding U.S. Citizenship.


1.      If I list my family members on my citizenship application will they automatically become citizens or permanent residents?


Generally the answer is no. The citizenship application does require that you list your spouse and all of your children on your application. However, if you have not submitted an immigrant visa petition on behalf of your dependents the mere task of listing them on your citizenship application will not automatically grant them legal immigration status.


2.      Can I reapply for U.S. Citizenship if my application was previously denied?


Generally if your application has been denied for an administrative error you can always reapply.   However, it is important to know that you will be expected to resubmit your complete application along with your immigration fees. If your application was denied because you failed the civics test or the English exam you may reapply as soon as you believe that you have learnt enough English or studied for the civics test. If your application was denied because of your criminal convictions or any other reason it would be best to consult with an attorney to ensure that you are eligible to resubmit your application.


3.      If I have been convicted of a crime but my record has been expunged, do I need to indicate that information on my citizenship application?


The answer is yes. You should always be honest with Immigration regarding all arrests and convictions (even if they have been expunged). Even if you have committed a minor crime, Immigration can deny your application if you failed to disclose information about the incident.  


4.      I am a permanent resident but I reside in Jamaica. Can I still apply for U.S. citizenship even if I do not live in the United States?

The U.S. government requires that an applicant must have resided continuously as a lawful permanent resident in the United States for at least 5 years prior to filing with absences from the United States totaling no more than one year. In addition, the applicant must have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the previous five years (absences of more than six months but less than one year break the continuity of residence unless the applicant can establish that he or she did not abandon his or her residence during such period). The requirement of physical and continuous residence can become complicated and it is best to consult an attorney to determine if you have met these guidelines.

  1. I recently submitted my application for citizenship but now I wish to visit Jamaica. Can I travel while my citizenship application is pending?

Applicants for naturalization are allowed to travel while their applications are pending, but should keep in mind the residency requirements. The naturalization application requires all applicants to state the time that he or she has spent outside the United States dating back to the date of obtaining permanent residency. To become naturalized, immigration requires proof that the applicant has resided in the United States at least half of the time within the last 5 years (i.e. at least 30 months within the last 60 months). Therefore, as long as your travel will not cause you to remain outside of the United States for more than the amount of time permitted for naturalization, at the time your application is filed AND at the time of your interview, then you have the option to travel while the N-400 application is pending. If you do decide to travel while your naturalization application is pending, you must supplement your application either before the interview, or at the time of your interview.

6.      My girlfriend and I recently became engaged. Can I include my fiancé on my citizenship application?


The answer is no. Immigration requires that you include your spouse’s information. A fiancé or girlfriend is not considered to be a spouse for immigration purposes. In addition, common law marriage will not be accepted for immigration purposes, unless it is recognized as legal in the jurisdiction of residence or last residence.



Disclaimer: This handout is a broad overview of the frequently asked questions associated with acquiring U.S citizenship. This article is provided as a public service and is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.


About the Writer:
Safiya Byars is a native of Jamaica and an attorney in Decatur, Georgia. Her firm is located at 160 Clairemont Avenue, Ste. 200, Decatur, Georgia 30030. Her firm handles all Immigration Matters, Deportation, Domestic Relations, Criminal Defense, Business Formation and Litigation, Landlord/Tenant and Estate Planning.  To discuss your case, please contact Attorney Byars at 404-992-6506 or 678-954-5809 or via email.  or visit her firm’s website.

About the author

Safiya Byars, Esq

Safiya Byars is the founder and senior partner of the Byars Firm. Attorney Byars serves as the Chair of the Family Immigration Continuing Learning Education and the Vice-Chair of the Immigration Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia. She is a native of Kingston, Jamaica. The Byars firm is located at 3720 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Suite D2, Chamblee, Georgia 30341. The Byars Firm handles Immigration, Family, and Estate Planning matters. We can be reached at 678-736-5600 and email: [email protected].