Immigration reform is coming.
And when it comes, new pathways toward U.S. citizenship
will be opened for millions of foreign nationals already settled in the USA.
But even before any such changes are put into law,
we can guess what criteria will be used to grant American citizenship.

    Citizens of other countries now settled in the USA without authorization
will be carefully evaluated to see if they could become good U.S. citizens.
And if they are already better than most Americans,
who could deny them citizenship?

    Inevitably some foreign nationals living in the USA without permission
will be required to return to their homelands.
Falling below average in the 14 criteria discussed here
will be important reasons for returning
some foreigners to their homelands.

















If this chapter achieves its purpose,
readers who wish to become American citizens
will begin making the recommended changes in their daily lives
so that they will be more likely to be granted U.S. citizenship.


by James Leonard Park

    Some of the foreign nationals now settled in the USA
will ultimately be offered reasonable pathways to U.S. citizenship.
Immigration reform will define exactly what requirements must be met.
But there is no need for citizens of other countries
to wait for the U.S. government to act.
What America will require for citizenship
and what qualities will recommend any candidate
can easily be guessed.


    If you do not already use the English language well,
then wherever you are in the process of seeking American citizenship,
learning to understand and use the English language
will always be a positive factor in favor of granting U.S. citizenship.
Be prepared to show that you can use the English language.
How well do you understand written and spoken English?
Can you write and speak English so that others understand you?
Among all of the applicants for citizenship,
is your English proficiency above average?


    You should seek the highest educational level possible for you.
If you can earn a college degree,
this will be one of the most impressive factors
in favor of being granted American citizenship.

    Perhaps you had a visa to study in America.
Did you fulfill all of the expectations of that opportunity?
Have you made reasonable progress toward your educational goals?

    Collect all your proofs of educational attainment in one place,
so you can present these educational records when asked.
Of all the foreign nationals applying for U.S. citizenship,
can you show that your education is above average?


    If you are no longer in school, perhaps you are part of the work-force.
Or maybe you have been working while attending school.
Create a list of all of the jobs you have held during your years in the USA.
Keep names and addresses of people
who can testify that you did indeed hold those jobs.
Be prepared to show your employment records:
When did you start each job?  When did you leave?
Each employer should also have complete records of your work.

    If you were ever part of the underground economy,
this will help to complete the picture of your life in the USA.
Especially if you have now left a job that was not completely legitimate,
you can argue that you were doing your best under the circumstances
of being a foreign national without permission to live or work in the USA. 

    If you made part of your living in some criminal activity,
you can show that you have been reformed
by giving useful information about that criminal enterprise,
so that others who are still engaged in selling illegal drugs,
smuggling people into the USA, or creating false documents
can be taken into custody, tried, & (if convicted) imprisoned.

    The longer you have been employed in legitimate occupations
the better your chances of being granted a pathway to U.S. citizenship.


    You should keep complete records of all the tax-returns you filed.
This will show that you were indeed present in the USA during those years.
And it will further demonstrate that you had a legitimate occupation.
Moreover, you paid all local, state, & federal taxes
that were due on your income for those years. 

    Here again, you will strengthen your case for being granted citizenship
if you can show that you are above average in your tax-compliance.
About 10% of people who have income in the USA do not report it.
And if under-reported income is included,
the percentage of tax-evaders is probably much higher.

    For example, it is well-known that people who receive tip income
from being engaged in some sort of service occupation (eg wait-persons)
seldom report all of their income from cash tips.

    But have you filed complete and correct tax-returns
for all of the years you have been living in the USA?
Even when you earned so little money that you were not required to file,
you will give your case for citizenship a very big boost if you can show
tax-returns even for years when you owed no income tax.
Income taxes now begin at about $20,000 per year for an individual.
Even if you owe no taxes, you should at least file Form 1040 every year.
If you had a legitimate employer, some money was withheld to pay taxes.
And you will receive a refund if the amount withheld is more than you owe.
Such tax-records will be impressive proof that you are above average.

    Social Security taxes (payroll taxes) begin at the first dollar you earn.
If you had a legitimate job, your employer paid half of your FICA taxes.
The other half was also withheld from your paychecks
and paid to the Social Security Administration on a regular basis.
Your Social Security taxes paid
will also be a good record of your presence in the USA.

    If you had any income from self-employment,
that also should have been reported on your income-tax return.
And you should have paid at least Social Security taxes on that income.
If your income was above the minimum,
you also were paying income-taxes to the federal government.
And you might also have been paying state income-taxes.

    Be better than those who do not report all of their income.
And keep good records of all taxes paid.
You might even create a summary of the taxes you paid for each year.
Such records will show that you are ready to become a good American.

    The more complete your tax-records are,
the better your case for being granted U.S. citizenship.
Did you report all rental income?
Did you report all gambling winnings?
Did you even report income from illegal activities such as sexual services?
(These should be reported as some form of legal employment.)
Can you verify all of the tax-deductions you claimed?
Did you report an income large enough to live on?
If not, how did you support yourself during those years?

    Were you among those foreign nationals who did not pay taxes?
If so, the Internal Revenue Service has ways of calculating what you owe.
Getting straight with the IRS will reach back for a certain number of years.
And you should make arrangements to pay your back taxes
in the same ways that you will now be paying your current taxes:
You will have your taxes withheld by your employer
and paid regularly to the Internal Revenue Service.
Each year you remain in the USA, you will pay both your current taxes
and a certain part of your past taxes due.
You will also have to pay a penalty for being late in paying your taxes. 

    Some advocates of immigration reform suggest
that foreign nationals living in the USA without permission
should be require to pay a penalty.
But if you do not have the cash to pay immediately,
you might have to borrow money to pay the fine,
which might put you into debt with some kind of money-lender. 
Probably paying all taxes as you continue to earn your living
would be a more reasonable way to handle back taxes. 

    You can earn U.S. citizenship by paying all taxes when due.
And if you owe taxes for prior years,
continuing to follow your arrangements to pay past-due taxes
will also improve your chances of being granted U.S. citizenship.

    If you lived anywhere that had state and local taxes,
you should also collect good records of these taxes.
Such records will also help to prove where you lived during those years.

    If you owned a house or some other real estate,
you also paid real estate taxes. 

    If you operate a business,
keep good records of all taxes due and paid.


    If you are a male between the ages of 18 and 25,
you are required to register for the draft,
even tho there has been no conscription since 1973.
This registration is required for all foreign nationals in the USA
as well as all citizens and other permanent residents.

    Since most foreigners living in the USA without permission
do not want to be known by any government agency,
almost none are registered with the Selective Service System.
But if and when it becomes clear that registering for the draft
will not automatically trigger deportation proceedings,
then you as a citizen of another country
can use this registration as one additional proof
that you are willing to comply with American laws.


    One of the strongest factors favoring U.S. citizenship for you
will be the fact that you have served honorably
in some branch of the U.S. armed forces.
The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard
will keep very good records of your years of service.
And you can present this service-record to naturalization officials.

    Some likely revisions of the U.S. laws of citizenship
might grant automatic citizenship to any foreign national
who has served for a certain number of years in the U.S. armed forces.
But you should not wait for any such change in law.
You can begin your military service whenever you feel ready.
And later, the fact of this service might be very important
in support of your case for becoming a U.S. citizen.
Common sense says that anyone who has served in the military
has proven himself or herself well beyond what most Americans do.

    Serving in the armed forces proves your loyalty to the USA.


    If you were admitted into the USA on a visa of any kind,
the U.S. government already has a record for you.
You might have over-stayed your visa.
And for that reason, you might have disappeared into the general population,
without telling the Department of Homeland Security where you are living.

    But one likely step toward registering all foreign nationals
would be a moratorium on deportations for most citizens of other countries
when they voluntarily register themselves with the U.S. government.
As soon as it becomes possible for you to register
without risking being sent back to your country of citizenship,
then you will improve your case for citizenship
if you are one of the first foreign nationals to register.

    You will improve your case for becoming a U.S. citizen
if you come out of the shadows as soon as it is safe.

    On June 15, 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
announced "deferred action" for all foreign nationals
who would qualify for the DREAM act and who applied.
By administrative decision (in contrast to new legislation),
if you were a child (age 15 of younger) when you entered the USA,
you were no longer be subject to immediate deportation
if you were less than 31 years old on June 15, 2012.
You were not prosecuted for your parents' immigration violations.
And, unless you were convicted of serious crimes,
you were given temporary authorization to work in the USA.
Such two-year authorizations were renewed on a case-by-case basis.

    This "deferred action" did not grant amnesty.
And it did not automatically open a pathway to American citizenship.
Also, if you registered with the U.S. government,
the months under this new status did not count as months 'out of status'.

    Deciding not to prosecute DREAMers already settled in the USA
did not encourage additional unauthorized immigration,
because "deferred action" required at least 5 years
of continuous presence in the USA up to and including June 15, 2012.

    About 800,000 law-abiding foreign nationals
who were brought into America
by their parents without permission
were registered under this decision not to deport them.

    This new data-base of foreign nationals, 2012-2017,
might form the basis for the universal registration of all foreign nationals
now settled in the USA without permission.

    Eventually Directory USA will list all residents of the United States.
This data-base will include both citizens and non-citizens.

    When you are gathering supporting evidence for your citizenship case,
you should list the names and addresses of all family members
who are already U.S. citizens
or who are in some process of applying for citizenship.
Such family connections will figure strongly in granting U.S. citizenship.

    If you have relatives who have some other kind of legal status
—temporary visa, permanent residence, or registered foreign national—
be sure to list these people with their current addresses as well.

    Providing the names and addresses of relatives,
some of whom might also have settled in the USA without permission
will be one further step toward registering all residents of the USA.
No one will remain in the shadows, unknown and unregistered.
You might have some family discussions before registering.
And you might all decide to register at the same time.
Coming out of the shadows will show that you will make better Americans
than those who wait until the last moment before the registration closes.
And the completeness of your list of relatives will also be dramatic proof
that you all want an honest relationship with the U.S. government.

    When you list all relatives, explain your exact connections with each,
including when and how they obtained citizenship if they are U.S. citizens.
And if they are citizens of other countries, give those facts also.

    The more complete your list of relatives
the better will be your case for U.S. citizenship.
If it is later discovered that you have hidden
(or not disclosed) some family members,
then your case for American citizenship will be damaged.
Lying (even by omitting some relatives) will count against you.

    This family discussion about just when and whom to register
might result in some family members returning to their home countries.
If they know that they have little chance of becoming American citizens,
then it would be better for them to return to their homelands voluntarily
and on their own schedules
rather than waiting to be discovered and deported.
When you explain your family structure,
these facts about some returning to their homelands should be mentioned.
Your completeness and honesty will weigh heavily in your favor.


    If you have spent several years of your life living in the United States,
this will also improve your case for citizenship.
You will be admitting to violating the immigration laws,
but part of the fault for this violation rests with the U.S. government,
which made is so easy for you to enter without permission
and to live in the USA for so many years without being noticed.

    List all of the places where you have lived since you entered the USA.
If you have rental or ownership records,
these will be very useful evidence that you have been here a long time.

    As noted above, you might also have employment and tax records,
which will show the years in which you resided in the USA.

    All other community connections, such as church memberships,
will also strengthen your case for American citizenship
because you are already a meaningful member of your community.

    If ever you had a visa to live in the USA,
keep very careful records of all the facts related to that permission.
Even if you were refused permission for a visa extension,
the fact that you were once under this supervision
might put you ahead of most applicants
who were never previously registered with the U.S. government.


    The date you officially apply to become a citizen of the USA
will become a very important date in your application.

    Obviously you will not apply until after you are certain
that you will not be automatically processed for repatriation.
But immigration reform will probably establish
a no-immediate-deportation regulation
at least for those who have violated no other laws.
When the U.S. Department of Homeland Security permits you to register
without sending you back to your country of citizenship,
you will be one of the first to come forward voluntarily
and become fully known to the U.S. government.

    Registration does not guarantee a pathway to citizenship,
but if you are actually above average in all of the other factors,
you might feel confident enough to take the chance
that you can prove that you will be an excellent citizen of the USA.
And the fact that you applied before millions of others
will give you an advantage over those who are reluctant to register.


    If you do not already have a license to drive a car,
begin the process of getting a permit to learn to drive,
undergo all necessary behind-the-wheel training, pass your driver's test,
and receive your license to drive from the state where you live.

    This will be one additional step out of the shadows.
And the identification included with your driver's license
will be added to all of the other facts that distinguish you from others.
However, buying a fake driver's license or using a false identity
will damage your case for U.S. citizenship.

    Each state where you held a valid driver's license
will have records of exactly which years you were licensed to drive.

    Besides obtaining a license to drive,
your car or truck should be registered with the state.
Keep good records of each vehicle you owned
and exactly where it was registered.


    Whenever immigration reform is discussed, there is universal agreement
that foreign nationals who have committed serious crimes
while they were in the USA (other than violating the immigration laws)
will not become U.S. citizens.

    There will probably never be any way around this criterion:
Criminals need not apply.
But if you have been convicted of a crime and served your time in jail,
there might be some point in trying to make the case
that you are so reformed that you can become a good U.S. citizen.

    Just where the line will be drawn excluding law-breakers
will have to be defined by new immigration laws.
And immigration judges will decide difficult cases.
But a good guess would be: felony.
If you have been convicted of a felony,
then citizenship in the United States of America will not be offered to you.
Another suggested criterion might be amount of time served in jail.

    You do not need to wait for any such details in new laws of immigration:
You can start cleaning up your act immediately.
The more years since your last conviction
the better your case will be that you are so reformed
that you are qualified to become a U.S. citizen.

    But some people know in advance that their crimes were so terrible
that once law-enforcement discovers where they are living,
they will be deported to their homelands
perhaps after specific terms of imprisonment in the USA.
Foreign nationals who have been convicted of murder
have no chance of becoming citizens of the United States of America.

    As unfair as this might seem, it is the likely result of immigration reform.
People who are U.S. citizens will not be sent to other countries
when they violate U.S. laws.
(Rather, they will go to jail or prison.)
But foreign nationals will have no such right to remain in the USA
if they been found guilty of significant violations of law.

    This brings us back to the sub-title of this chapter:
You can become a U.S. citizen if you are above average.
And being convicted of a serious crime will not recommend you to anyone
who must decide about your suitability to become a new American. 

    Your criminal behavior has not earned you American citizenship.
But it has earned you a term in jail
followed by deportation to your country of origin.

    But even such a fate can encourage other foreign nationals:
If others follow all laws
even better than the average American
they might find that being law-abiding people
has qualified them to become American citizens.

    In short, foreign nationals who wish to become U.S. citizens
will have to be even more law-abiding than many Americans.
(Some advocates of immigration reform already claim
that foreign nationals living in the USA without permission
have a lower crime-rate than U.S. citizens.
Better records about citizens and non-citizens will clarify this claim.)

    But every person who would like to become a U.S. citizen
has the power to follow all of the laws that apply to everyone in the USA.
Even violating trivial laws will be recorded and counted against you.
But if you have violated no laws (except for your immigration violations),
having no criminal record will put you above other applicants.
And you might be offered a pathway toward earning U.S. citizenship.

    Whatever pathways toward citizenship will be defined in new laws,
there will always be some years of waiting before citizenship is granted.
During this probationary period,
you can prove that you are above average by obeying all laws.


Beyond following all local, state, & federal laws,
you will show that you are going to be a good U.S. citizen
if you actively assist law-enforcement whenever reasonable. 


    From your years of living underground,
you might have considerable knowledge
about some parts of the underground economy.
Perhaps you even worked for some underground enterprise in the past.
Whenever you know about such unregistered and untaxed businesses,
you should report them to the most appropriate authorities.
And you can keep a record of such assistance to law-enforcement.


    One advantage of being a registered foreign national
is that you no longer need worry about contacting the police.
While you were still unregistered,
there was a serious danger that you yourself might be deported
just for making yourself known to the police. 
But if you are registered (and immune from deportation),
then you will enhance your chances of becoming an American citizen
if you show your loyalty to your adopted country
by reporting any crimes that come to your attention. 

    Perhaps you were formerly engaged in some criminal activity.
But you will demonstrate that you value law-and-order
more than you value your loyalty to your former criminal comrades
if you assist law-enforcement officials to locate and arrest people
who are still engaged in criminal enterprises. 


    One of the best ways for you to assist the U.S. government
will be for you to help other foreign nationals to register themselves
with the Department of Homeland Security.
After it becomes clear that immunity from deportation really works,
you can encourage other family members and friends
to follow your lead and register themselves with the U.S. government. 

    Keep good records of assisting other foreign nationals to register.
Some other foreign nationals might appreciate you going with them
to the place where they will register themselves. 
Because you have already been thru the process,
you will be able to explain each step of the procedure as it unfolds. 

    The more other foreign nationals you have registered,
the better your own chances will be of earning American citizenship.
This cooperation in bringing others out of the shadows
will be a definite positive factor in favor of your staying in the USA. 

    On the other hand, if it later appears that you hid
other foreign nationals that you knew about,
this will count against your own application for citizenship.

    Keep good records of all times and places
where you cooperated with any level of government in the USA.


    Your application to become a U.S. citizen
will be placed alongside 1,000 other applications.
After immigration reform becomes effective,
about 1 million people will become naturalized Americans each year.
But there are 1 billion foreigners who would like to become U.S. citizens.

    Even before any new laws are proposed, discussed, or passed,
you can begin creating your file of facts
that support your application to become
one of the selected foreign nationals who will be naturalized.

    Beyond fulfilling all of the minimum requirements
likely to be included in new immigration laws,
you can make your case for becoming a U.S. citizen
by showing that you already have many notable achievements:
Did you receive any academic awards during your years of schooling?
Were you recognized by any employer for superior work?
Have you written any published articles or books?
Do you have any other educational, social, or economic achievements
that will tend to show that you will be a good American?

    In short, how are you already above average?


    Even before any immigration reform is enacted,
you can improve your chances of becoming a U.S. citizen
by fulfilling as many of these 14 likely criteria as you can.
And as soon as proposals for earning American citizenship are discussed,
you can begin to collect the evidence needed for your application
to become a naturalized citizen of the United States of America.

These specific suggestions for preparing for American citizenship
has become Chapter 9 of Orderly Immigration: Creating a New America:
"Earning American Citizenship: Be Above Average".

Would you consider joining a Facebook Seminar
discussing this book-being-revised?
See the complete description of this seminar:

The discussion of all of the issues surrounding immigration reform
takes place in a Facebook Group called:
"Immigration Reform: Changing U.S. Laws":


    James Park is no stranger to the processes of seeking naturalization.
He has been a naturalized U.S. citizen since 1955.
But it took almost a year for USCIS to look up the papers
and issue a Certificate of Citizenship when he applied for Social Security.

    He has written several other chapters about immigration reform,
which are linked here in the order of their relevance to the essay above:

Orderly Immigration into the United States

Ideal Immigrants:
Criteria for Selecting New Americans

Children of Foreign Nationals:
New Pathways to Citizenship

I am an Immigrant

Immigration Reform:
A Range of Options

Register all Foreign Nationals:
Carrots & Sticks

End Deportation of Persons Likely to Qualify for
a Pathway to Citizenship under Immigration Reform

Registration without Deportation:
Bringing Millions of Foreign Nationals out of the Shadows

The Underground Economy:
Bring all Economic Activity into the Open

Born in the USA:
The Easy Way to Become a U.S. Citizen

25 Million Foreign Nationals in the USA:
How Many Will Stay?

Comprehensive Repatriation of Citizens of other Countries and their Families

National Identity File:
Directory USA

Background information:
Read Wikipedia on "Citizenship in the United States".

Created April 4, 2011; Revised 4-6-2011; 5-7-2011; 5-11-2011;
8-12-2011; 9-28-2011; 10-1-2011; 10-12-2011;
3-28-2012; 6-19-2012; 1-18-2013; 7-10-2013; 8-11-2013; 8-26-2013; 10-24-2013;
4-5-2014; 9-5-2014; 11-5-2015; 4-13-2016; 8-4-2016;
1-20-2017; 10-4-2017; 4-25-2018; 5-21-2019;

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