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Legal help for immigrants

Resources for help with citizenship and other immigration issues.

The Mayor's Office for Immigrant Advancement works to serve immigrants in Boston. This webpage addresses some common questions related to immigration and status.

For help with a legal problem, enter your zip code and find resources specific to you at the Massachusetts Legal Resource Finder.

If you have other questions or are looking for a free immigration consultation with a volunteer lawyer, you can email or call 617-635-2980.

U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization

Benefits of Citizenship

Becoming a U.S. citizen is a very important decision. Permanent residents have most of the rights of U.S. citizens. However, there are many important reasons to consider U.S. citizenship. When you become a citizen, you will receive all the rights of citizenship. You also accept all of the responsibilities of being an American. As a citizen you can:

  • Vote. Only citizens can vote in federal elections. Most states also restrict the right to vote — in most elections — to U.S. citizens.
  • Serve on a jury. Only U.S. citizens can serve on a federal jury. Most states also restrict jury service to U.S. citizens. Serving on a jury is an important responsibility for U.S. citizens.
  • Travel with a U.S. passport. A U.S. passport enables you to get help from the U.S. government when overseas, if necessary.
  • Bring family members to the U.S. U.S. citizens generally get priority when petitioning to bring family members permanently to this country.
  • Obtain citizenship for children under 18 years of age. In most cases, a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen is automatically a U.S. citizen.
  • Apply for federal jobs. Certain jobs with government agencies require U.S. citizenship.
  • Become an elected official. Only citizens can run for federal office (U.S. Senate or House of Representatives) and for most state and local offices.
  • Keep your residency. A U.S. citizen’s right to remain in the United States cannot be taken away.
  • Become eligible for federal grants and scholarships. Many financial aid grants, including college scholarships and funds given by the government for specific purposes, are available only to U.S. citizens.
  • Obtain government benefits. Some government benefits are available only to U.S. citizens.
Naturalization Requirements

Before you apply for naturalization, you must meet a few requirements. Depending on your situation, there are different requirements that may apply to you. However, generally, an applicant for naturalization must:

  • Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  • Be a permanent resident (have a “green card”) for at least five years
  • Have lived within the state or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) district with jurisdiction over your place of residence for at least three months before the date of filing the Form N-400
  • Have continuous residence in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years immediately before the date of filing Form N-400
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the five years immediately before the date of filing Form N-400
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
  • Have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government (civics)
  • Be a person of good moral character
  • Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution
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